Interpersonally skills are definitely among the soft skills that developers need to have. So, let's get to it! Here are 3 tips developers can improve their communication skills:
Tip 1: Practice Reflective Listening
Reflective listening is a communication strategy involving two key steps: seeking to understand a speaker's idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker, to confirm the idea has been understood correctly.
This is a great communication practice that all teams should use. It's simple — whenever something crucial is communicated, the person listening has to reflect it back, in their own words.
How can you put reflective listening into practice?
1 It may seem silly to repeat whatever has just been said to you. But it works like a charm. Why? It shows you were listening, and that you really understood what was said. An added bonus is that it helps nip misunderstandings in the bud. If any detail or point is misunderstood, it becomes clear in the reflection. And it can then be clarified then and there, instead of some time later, when it may have bigger consequences.
2 Ask others to reflect back to you what you said. It gives you a moment to think whether you've said everything that you wanted to say. Even more, it gives you instant feedback on whether you were clear in your communications and drove your points home. And if not, you can fix that then and there.
Tip 2: Be Prepared
A lot of the times, you know in advance that some sort of communication is planned for. It may be a team meeting, a sprint review, or something else along those lines. The easiest way to be a better communicator is to be prepared.
- Take some time in advance to think about the topics that will be raised or might be raised.
- Consider whether you have all the information you need to speak on these topics, to answer any questions that may come up — even more, what questions you may have for others!
If the meeting or event is an important one?
Make some notes that you can take with you. First of all, writing is a great way to make sure you remember things, to structure and organize your thoughts. Even further, you will feel more prepared walking into that situation.
The POST method is a simple way to give clarity at the beginning of a meeting:
- Purpose: What is the purpose of the meeting?
- Objective: What are you trying to achieve in the meeting, and what does success look like?
- Structure: What is the structure of the meeting we are having?
- Timing: How much time is allocated to the meeting?
- Use pen and paper
It’s easier to get distracted with all those browsing and other files in your tablet, notepad or laptop
- Learn shorthand
For example, instead of writing “task A is assigned to Rob,” you can just use an arrow pointing task A to Rob. Instead of writing “important” just use an exclamation mark. Visualizing or drawing thoughts instead of writing them is faster; just make sure the illustration makes sense to you.
- Just highlight the key points
- Prepare a written report immediately after the meeting
- Write Meeting Minutes While You Still Remember and Send Minutes Out Quickly
Don’t leave writing up your minutes until the meeting is a distant memory. Aim to get your minutes out within 1-2 days of the meeting taking place.
- Start With an Action Review
If the action was completed, don’t bother to write it out again.
- Document Actions and Owners
4. Use a Standard Template
Using a standard template saves you time. Your attendees will also get used to reading the minutes in that format, especially if the meeting is held regularly.
5. Document Decisions
Use your minutes to confirm the decisions that were taken in the meeting.
6. Use Tables
Use three columns: the item number, discussion summary and action owner.
If you are invited to business meetings?
Make sure that you have an understanding of the metrics and numbers that your team cares about. Do your research on business lingo. In particular, you should understand the basic concept of unit economics answering if you have a viable business model. If you are working at a SaaS company, make sure you understand the dynamics of the SaaS Business Model and how to double revenues with incremental improvements.
Tip 3: Know Your Audience
Whenever you're talking to other developers, you probably don't have to put any extra effort into how you talk. There are no barriers! However, the developers that have great communication skills will also be apt at talking to managers, the C-level, the marketing team...and this stands out.
Discuss a technical topic with someone who has little techy knowledge
1 Pay extra attention to how you speak. Don't use slang, jargon or super technical terms that they may not know. Use simple words, break it down. Imagine you're explaining it to your mom! :)
2 Use metaphors or parallels with other fields. And do try these out with a smaller audience before bringing them to the C-level.