Letter from the President - August 2017

Do you ever find yourself having a conversation with someone, trying to solve a technological problem, when you realize the issue isn’t technology at all? It seems that at many of the conferences I attend, people complain about things as if they are “CAD problems” or “BIM problems, when really that complaint has been around since the beginning of designer/client relationships. Exhibit A would be, “How am I supposed to keep up when the client keeps changing the requirements?” CAD, BIM, and other technologies may have changed how we respond to these kinds of requests, but that doesn’t make it a new problem. In the end, I think it all comes down to communication.

Effective communication is yet another skill that we are rarely taught directly in school but that is absolutely invaluable in the working world. If you were lucky enough to have specific communications training, it might be worth revisiting some of those materials. For the rest of us, it might be time to remember that English class gave us more than an appreciation for literature. We may not have to write five-paragraph essays anymore, or answer long-form exam questions in blue books (thank goodness!), but good grammar, spelling, and clarity of expression will help you cultivate a professional appearance in the eyes of those reading your work.

It’s not just written communication that’s important, either. Let’s say you’re in a working meeting. Some people at the table prefer to talk through their ideas, throwing out one suggestion after another until they find one they actually like. Others work best when they think quietly, and may even have trouble verbalizing their thought process until it’s complete. If you’re one of the former, it can help if you warn people  you’re  only  brainstorming. “I’m just listing ideas here; I’m not committed to anything yet.” Otherwise, you risk them taking you seriously when you’re just tossing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. If you’re the latter and you need time to think, ask for it. “Let me have a minute to work through that before I respond.” Without that heads-up, your colleagues may interpret silence as detachment, when you’re really just trying to gather your thoughts.

And because communication is a two-way street, we can’t think only about ourselves when choosing a communication method. We need to account for our colleagues’ preferences and priorities. Take phone calls and email. If you have something really important to say, are you more likely to pick up the phone or spend the time to write a few paragraphs? Chances are, one of those feels like a more “important” communication medium to you. But what does the recipient think? Depending on their mindset, the response could go one of two ways: “If it was important, she would have put it in writing!” Knowing which method carries more weight can help you make sure that your message is heard.

It’s tempting for those of us who are technically-minded to play down the importance of these “soft” skills. When your professional aptitude is oriented towards design or modeling, you might go days at a time without needing to write a thing. (For your project, that is. If your email inbox is anything like mine, there are plenty of other opportunities throughout the workday to hone your sentence-crafting ability.) But having a good set of communication skills can improve your reputation and expand your career opportunities. You don’t have to look farther than the pages of AUGIWorld to see great examples of  this. Our authors are a talented crew who generously share their time and expertise with us, and we’re lucky to have them.

And of course, writers don’t mean much without readers. Thanks for your AUGI membership, and thanks for reading!

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