musings about technology and software development..

Communication patterns and diversity

Someone recently sent me a tool which measures whether your brain is left/right-hemisphere dominant, and auditory/visual. I am left+visual, and prefer logic and visual patterns. In a discussion I will find myself going to the whiteboard, even sometimes when it's not necessary, and highly prefer people draw their ideas out because I like having something to stare at.

Anyways, this sort of thing gets interesting when you have two people at the opposite ends of the spectrum. When they are trying to communicate, the visual guy may be drawing a diagram and asking "Why can't you see this?" to the auditory guy, who is thinking, "Why can't you hear what I'm saying?". Other communication examples are where one person wants to discuss big picture and the other wants to start with the details, or where one person prefers face-to-face and the other prefers e-mail discussions.

With a diverse group of people, the challenge is understanding everyone's points of view and having both sides alter their behaviors to accommodate each other. I've heard someone tell me that each slide in a presentation should have at most one sentence or picture, and bullet-points are the work of the devil. But I think a good presentation should appeal to both auditory and visual people, and not just one half or the other. As another example, a meeting with documents sent beforehand, provides face-to-face time via the meeting while allowing people to send questions/comments via e-mail. Small behavior changes like these make all sides feel comfortable and help everyone communicate successfully.