In a previous post, I began a discussion about communication. That post focused on errors in communication in the first 2 portions. This post will focus on errors that arise on the tail end of the communication process (parsing through and extracting info from the transcription, and extracting the original entity's meaning).
As before we'll use examples. This is a three-step email that I sent to a doctor that needed help sending a message with a link to a mailing list. Apparently this greatly differs from sending an e-mail to a regular person somhow. Here's what I wrote:
1) Create a new e-mail message to "firstname.lastname@example.org" (no quotes). This address will then forward your message to the people on the mailinglist. This forwarding action happens automatically behind the scenes and requires no actions on your part.
2) Type the body of your e-mail as you normally would. The link that needs to be placed in your message is shown below. Feel free to copy-and-paste it into the message.
3) Hit send.
For some reason it still couldn't be done. What is it about the above that's difficult to understand? Based on what I said, could you send a link to the mailing list in question? Please leave any appropriate feedback.
My last example in this thread is a conversation that I had with a recently hired supervisor. I was trying to explain what happened behind the scenes when a submit button was pressed on one of our patient registration forms. After discussing the database save and the other web component that displays what is recently entered, I moved on to the printouts and how I would like to replace these with an email message. This is because the print subsystem keeps losing the ability to communicate with the printer in question. This is also going to be worse when I move the server into our network's DMZ. At this point, I noticed a funny look on her face.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I don't understand a word you just said," was the response she mouthed, inaudibly.
Now, I know she knows what a database is (After all, her first question to me when she joined our team was "Why don't you just use SPSS for all your databases?"), so I tried to get in her head and figure out what caused this misunderstanding.
"I just don't understand why all that happens before the user submits the page," she finally told me.
"Before?!" I asked.
Apparently, the past tense and the fact that "the information entered" was used wasn't enough to clue her in.
"It doesn't happen before, this happens after." I replied.
"Oh, ok, it makes sense now."
I started this thread with four steps, but one thing this whole experience has taught me is that context matters most in communication. If you can't transcribe your idea in the appropriate context, your message has no hope for success.