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  • How To Fix Miscommunication Issues Within Your Team

    [01.07.21]
    - Ryan Sumo

  • The Technical Explanation is not an Explanation

    Oftentimes when I ask our programmers what the implications of an issue are, they will respond with *a technical explanation*. It's hard for me to really explain this, so an analogy might be better. If I ask someone "what would happen if I threw this ball at your face?" the answer I really want, and would be useful, is not *an explanation of the physics of acceleration, mass, wind resistance, etc*. The useful answer would be "The ball will hit me in the face, and it would hurt."

    Similarly, when asked about the impact of a design or code change to the game, it's probably easier to explain how these changes would impact the player/game, rather than how it would change the code. 

    Fewer Words is Better (Not!)

    As many gamedevs are quiet introverts, many of us have embraced the idea that saying as few words as possible is the most efficient way to get out of having to talk to people.  This gives rise to two issues when a quiet dev is asked to clarify something in the game/code:

    1. The person they are speaking to is either too meek or doesn't care enough to keep asking clarifying questions. This ends the conversation very quickly but inevitably creates a problem down the road where errors that come out of the miscommunication impact the game.

    2. The person they are speaking to is not satisfied with their answer so they will keep asking until they have a satisfactory answer, possibly creating a stressful or hostile environment.

    Issue 2 is not only tiring to both the quiet dev and their questioner, it's doubly unfair to the questioner because they have to expend the effort of finding context and clarifying meaning, which is a lot of mental work

    My only advice here is to ask people to consider adding clarifying context to their statements. This may involve some additional effort on their end, but saves everyone a lot of time in the long run.

    Zero Information Answers

    And here's me doing a u-turn. Just as it is important to note that using as few words as possible is not the best way to communicate, there are times when we use too many words without really conveying useful information. Here's an example:

    Zero Information : Company A's cost and Company B's cost are far apart. 

    Even though this statement may be accurate, it gives zero actionable information and forces the recipient to ask you follow up questions.

    Some Information : Company A is cheaper than Company B

    This sentence is shorter and immediately provides context. Company A is cheaper, which ostensibly is a good thing.  Recipient can then ask follow up questions like "but do they offer the same level of service?"

    Most Useful Information : Company A is cheaper than Company B, but I like company B's service better.

    This sentence immediately provides context and answers a possible follow up question.  It is the perfect answer in terms of information efficiency.

    Obviously we won't be able to reach peak information efficiency all the time, but taking a little effort to think about what it is that we want to convey before typing it in can lead to great improvements in communication. This is especially useful when conversations are in chat or email. There is no immediate pressure to respond, so take your time!

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