Communication principles

The first necessary skill for being in business is communicating well.

The following is my list of principles for communication:

  1. Use plain English: Avoid expensive words and lingo. Plain English works best.
  2. Be direct: It’s better to start at the end. If you have a conclusion, go for it. Do you want to build a feature? Did the project fail? Do we have to hire or fire someone? Story build-ups are interesting when delivered well, but it’s risky and unecessary the majority of times. Again, start by answering the question, even if that means saying “I can’t answer it” or “I don’t know”. This also applies to requests: void saying “hey, do you have a minute?”. Instead, be clear with “hey, do you have a minute to talk about ?" or for bad news "hey, do you have a minute? person X wants to leave and I'd like to show you what I would like to do."
  3. Limit to 7 concepts: How short is short enough? Apparently, sentences, paragraphs, list should include a maximum of 7 chunks of information at a time. Avoid bullshit. Long emails, long speeches, long excuses. I have been guilty of this.
  4. Communicate conviction: Verbalize how Convinced you are of your opinion (if this is an opinion). This makes discussions shorter by transmitting judgement in a clear way. One thing is if your team is reasonably convinced of a path, say 80%, and another is to prefer an option and be indifferent (51%) or being absolutely sure (99%).
  5. Be pleasant: Use speech and writing to encourage. Those who read you may be far away and not share your understanding of things. The more positive you are in the style, even when delivering bad news, the better the message is received. Red flag: When someone is unpleasant to talk to, most value is lost. Don’t be that person, and don’t allow others to have a negative posture in communication. Also, avoid gossip. Consuming 2nd hand information is pretty bad: make yourself available, and react to direct feedback.
  6. Substitute, don’t snipe: I prefer suggesting and receiving substitute approaches to discussing individual elements. Changing a small part of a project may violate other elements. Substitution makes sure everyone is capable of discussing the whole (the purpose) as well as the part (the detail).