Blog of Sara Jakša

What is the Right Level of Information in Communication

This is something that I have been thinking over the last day. A lot of times I have a feeling that I did not convey information in a way that it would make my position clear. On the other hand, I am not sure that doing it in a longer way would have been more productive.

Let me tell you about two examples from yesterday. The first one happened when I my team was having a presentation in class. We had a PowerPoint, which I did not do, but I was the one presenting. Classmate brought USB and offered it to me, but I said: "I am not good with technology." What I actually wanted to say: "I am not sure I am the right person for making sure the PowerPoint works, because not only I don't use it (+ it does not work on Linux) and I have no idea about the specifics of the program, I usually end up with the technical problems regarding any kind of visual aids and I am not sure that people want to wait for me to figure out how this thing works. So if you want my to talk to the PowerPoint, you need to take care of the technical specifics."

Let us look through this situation through the communication lenses. There are multiple reasons why we communicate. The one that come in mind for this situation is to persuade a person to take care of the technology. instead of me. There is also a problem of maintaining relationship, which while not a primary goal, it could potentially affect it for the future. The first goal was accomplished, as my classmate did take care of it. The relationship part was most likely hurt by it. After all, looking from the outside view, I was in a way laying.

The second one happened after the class. I told somebody that I found out I needed to have a presentation 5 minutes before class and she was surprised. But as we were waking home, I did not was to explain the whole situation. In reality, they picked somebody else, I said I don't mind doing it, but they decided anyway to stay with the first one. So I assumed that he will present it. Next day I came before lecture and they showed me the presentation. I said it again that I don't mind doing it, because they were under impression that I might do it. So I ended up doing it.

This time instead of the persuasion, there is an information transfer goal. But the result is still the same. I presented my outlook on the situation, but there were a lot of supporting information which my lead to the misunderstanding, which I completely ignored at that moment.

These situation always leave the bad taste in my mouth. But on the other side, when I do try to explain myself in full, people appear to me like they don't like it. Either it is boring, of no interest of them, or too long. So a bit not good.

I guess that is why I like Spock. I remember a good example from the first reboot movie. They were under attack from Nero, and he first explains the why ("Captain, the Romulan ship has lowered some kind of high energy pulse device into the Vulcan atmosphere [1]"), only then did he explain the current predicament ("It's signal appears to be blocking our communications and transporter abilities [1]"). Sure in the Beyond move, Kirk even told him to skip to the point, which might show that it is not really the best kind of strategy for every situation.

This decision would be a lot easier, if I would be sure that I still communicated in a clear way. But as the Newton's and Kruger and Epley and others research showed, we overestimate how clear we are able to communicated. It does not matter, if it is tapping the song, writing in email or recording our voice. So if I had the feeling that I did not communicate clearly enough, than how bad was the final result? Probably close to gibberish.

For now, I guess forcing myself to go forward and improvise is the only way to do it. And hope that the additional data provides some hypothesis in how to deal with it.

[1] Star Trek transcript