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Create an Effective Communication Protocol With these Rules

Published 2/13/2017

In today's episode, we talk about creating effective communication protocols.

Today's episode is sponsored by Dolby. One of the most important things you can do for your application is ensure that the quality of your audio is strong. Check out how Dolby can help you at spec.fm/dolby.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrelll and in today's episode we're going to be talking about four rules for developing strong communications protocols. So we're talking about the concept of a communication protocol. And for the sake of today's episode, a protocol is quite simply an established system for communicating between two entities. Okay, that's a simplified definition, but an established system for two entities or more entities to communicate. And in today's episode, we really want to focus on how two different people communicate, right? Because every day we're working with these very strict protocols that have these definitions, we can go and look at the definitions and really protocols are the basis for so much of what we do as developers, particularly with technology, obviously, right? We have the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. We have things like Unicode, all of these things rely on a shared agreed upon standard. That's what the protocol is. And the protocol requires that both sides agree on the meaning of the messages that are transmitted between both sides. Now, the thing that makes this an interesting concept when it comes to humans is that we have kind of an implicit protocol, right? We have language, languages are implicit protocol. We have a lot of implicit protocols that are nonverbal, nonverbal communication. We have all of these ways of decoding the messages that other people are sending to us. And all of these ways of decoding messages that we see in the media as well, right? So this concept of protocols is particularly interesting because we haven't explicitly defined them, usually we haven't explicitly defined them except at a cultural and maybe a linguistic level. In other words, we do have things like the dictionary and we have some level of shared history and documentation of that history that we can reference when we are communicating with one another. But as we've talked about plenty of times on the show and we're going to continue talking about it, the interpersonal communication that you have with your coworkers and the relationships that you have in your job, these are so important to your career. In fact, perhaps the most important things to your career. And so even though humans are relatively pretty good at developing these implicit, almost instinctual, it depends on who you talk to, which scientist you're talking to. I'm not a behavioral psychologist by any means, but these almost instinctual ways of communicating and understanding the world, we don't often think about protocols in the same way that we think about allowing to computers to communicate to each other. However, we do still often have communication breakdowns. And what this reveals is perhaps a broken protocol. So I want to give you four rules or maybe you can view them as guidelines for developing stronger communications protocols. And we're talking about either strengthening your implicit protocols with other people or perhaps actually developing explicit protocols. And this is often what we see when we have people going through counseling. There are models of communication that are used in counseling rooms because the protocol needs to be clarified. So we're going to talk about some of that stuff today. We're going to jump straight in actually to rule number one. And that is number one, decide situations where your particular protocol should be used. And let me back up and say we're talking about communications protocols. These are going to vary. There are going to be many communications protocols that you use with other people. You don't treat everyone the same way. And maybe there are subsets of protocols. For example, language is a kind of a superset of many protocols that you may use depending on the scenario. And it's really important that as you start thinking about this, let's say for example, that you want to develop a protocol for asking someone to do a task at work. This may be a very specific example of a protocol or you could be developing protocol for your personal relationships where you want to express a grievance or maybe you want to turn down and offer to hang out. Now before you get turned off from this idea of kind of treating yourself like a computer, understand that all of these rules are going to be centered around making this work for humans. This is not about turning your thought processes into a mechanized thing. Instead, it is about really investigating the ways that you communicate. So number one, decide the situations where this protocol should be used. There are times when a particular protocol that you use at work is not going to work out very well in your social situations and vice versa. You may not necessarily need to tell the same types of jokes that you tell to your closest friends to your distant coworkers. And so these are protocols that you should understand and be sensitive to. So that's rule number one, decide the situations where this protocol should be used, where it's appropriate. Not all communications protocols should be used in every scenario that you encounter. Rule number two, determine the acceptable medium for transmission, determine the acceptable medium or perhaps media, but the acceptable medium for this particular transmission. This is something that goes largely overlooked and it is often the source of communications mishaps in business and in personal relationships alike, right? Because if we use the wrong kind of medium, it can absolutely add color or perhaps remove a large amount of information from that message. For example, my wife and I, we often watch the first 48. This is a show about crime and investigation specifically about homicide. And one of the messages that they often have to deliver is a family notification to the victim's family. Now the interesting thing is that in every scenario, no matter which police department we're talking about across the country, all of the police departments always deliver that information in person. This has been an established protocol for the, for these police departments. There are situations where whatever the message is will dictate the type of media used. So if you are talking about tasks on a project, a small task with a client, it is very possible that you can talk about that task through email or perhaps on a chat client likes like. However, if you are talking about the vision of the company, it's very possible, if not likely, that that is an in person kind of media, right? You may need to be face to face for that particular communication to, to be effective. Another example of this is when you are expressing yourself in a conflict and there's a lot of emotion that can't be transferred through pure text, right? So having at least vocal inflection may cut down significantly on the issues of miscommunication. And that's really what we want to do with protocols, right? So this is, this is something that you have to determine on a case by case basis sometimes, but you also should set up guidelines, right? So for example, if you are dealing with conflict, you always do that in person or perhaps you decide that every communication that you have with your superior with your boss about money should be done via email so that you have that record that record keeping available and you have context for previous conversations and that kind of stuff. So understanding that the media that you choose to communicate through makes a big difference in how that message is received and in the value of that message in the long run. So rule number one, decide which situations the protocols should be used in and rule number two, determine what medium is most appropriate for your particular message for that protocol. We're going to take a quick sponsor break and talk about today's sponsor Dolby. I don't know about you, but when I hear the name Dolby, when I hear about the brand Dolby in my mind, I think of studio quality or theater quality sound, right? And that's what Dolby is known for. But the reality is we don't have to go into a studio or into a theater to have good quality sound anymore, right? The technology has advanced beyond just simple stereo sound. And Dolby is providing this to you as a developer as a new tool because statistics are showing that today's users want better audio. In fact, 90% of digital device users rank sound quality as important across the digital entertainment ecosystem. Now this doesn't always mean that you need better audio assets. In fact, sometimes your audio assets are perfectly fine. You probably need a better audio codec to be sure your users are hearing everything. Now asset encoding with Dolby is easily accomplished with the tools that you're probably already using if you're dealing with audio very often like Adobe audition or you can use Dolby's free online encoding utility. Now here's here's an interesting reality that you may not be aware of. If you're a web developer, you can add surround sound audio to your web development projects. Your browser audio can be surround sound now. In particular iOS 10 supports the surround sound. So you have digital audio that you can deliver to the browser and the web development browser. This is going to open up so many awesome things that can be done in the browser just by using a new codec and it's totally free for you. Just go and check it out. Developer. Dolby.com where you can go to spec.fm slash Dolby to learn more about how you can use Dolby to increase the quality of your audio. Thank you so much again to Dolby for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. So we're talking about communications protocols. I feel like Dolby is a great sponsor for that by the way because they're going to increase the quality of transmission of audio. But we're talking about communications protocols not just in terms of increasing the ability to be heard. This is a person to person discussion. It's a psychology discussion but it's also a discussion about eliminating some of the problems that we may not even see happening. For example, using the wrong medium to transmit a message, rule number three, always complete the communications loop. Always complete the communications loop. Okay, so you may be listening to this and wondering what the communications loop is. And in fact, I didn't know what the communications loop was and wouldn't have had I not study communications in college. But the communications loop is very simple. You have a sender. This is the person with a message to send. And then you have a receiver. This is someone who is going to be hearing or reading or otherwise consuming receiving that message from the sender. That initial transmission, the sending is one part of the loop. And then the last part of the loop, and this is the one that is probably most often forgotten, is feedback. Okay, feedback is actually a new message that is sent back to the original sender. And it starts a new loop. So you should be once you've gone down this line a little bit, just sending feedback to each other. Right? There may be a new message initiated from a person who has just sent feedback. So it's not always just responding. It may be proactively adding a new message to the communications. But this feedback loop is incredibly important. And a lot of people forget to complete the feedback loop. Now what does that look like? Well, typically it looks like either a one-sided conversation where one person is only wanting to send a message and not receive any feedback on those messages. Another example of this is when you have two people who are simply not communicating. You're not even sending a message, right? Or perhaps you're trying to send a message, but there is this other piece that comes in, which is noise. This is the final piece of the feedback loop that you should understand. And noise, when you're talking about two people talking to each other, communicating with each other, noise comes in many different formats, not necessarily literally noise, although of course that is to be considered. But also the psychological noise, or perhaps something that redirects the message from its original intent. And we're going to talk a little bit more about the human side and intent versus reception later on in the fourth rule. But understand that this communications loop is incredibly important. So if you are sending a message, you should also be waiting and expecting feedback. And if you don't get the feedback that you were looking for or any feedback at all, or perhaps for some reason the feedback does have something noisy. It's a nonverbal feedback that you're not picking up on. Then you should be asking for that feedback, right? Encourage the other person, whoever you are establishing this communications with. Encourage them to communicate back to you their thoughts or communicate back to you how they think about the message that you just sent them. Now, a lot of times the feedback portion of a communication protocol between two people is most effective when it includes a reciprocated repetition of what was just said, right? So this is very commonly used once again in counseling. When you have two people who are communicating, the first person communicates some kind of message. And when the second person receives that message and decodes it for themselves, they should turn around and repeat what that message was to this sender. This is a very effective way to provide feedback, even if you don't necessarily have anything to add to that message. Really, what you're saying is here is how I have decoded what you have said to me. A lot of times what this will end up prompting is some correction in the decoding process. And this kind of brings us to our fourth rule or guideline for developing strong communications protocols. And that is to understand the human motivations of the sender and the receiver. Understand the humanity of the people in your communications loop, right? The sender and the receiver. Remember that unlike computers, communication protocols between two humans will be heavily influenced by something that is not necessarily predictable, right? Our humanity is not necessarily predictable. We have different ways of formatting messaging. We have different ways of decoding messaging. And these are things that are not easy to nail down. This is why psychology is such a broad area of study. And it's something that is ongoing and probably always will be because we haven't totally figured out how humans brains work. And so when you have two humans interacting, you are kind of multiplying that complexity for lack of a better understanding. You're multiplying that complexity because of the way that two different types of people will end up interacting. Now, you can do some investigation, especially for your primary relationships in your life. For example, Lauren and I, we've decided to understand as much as we can about each other and we take personality tests and that kind of stuff to determine what are some ways that are different personality types, our general personality types, may end up communicating. And that can be very insightful. And there are a lot of studies that can give you some insight into how you communicate. This would be something that you could do with co-workers that you have high intensity relationships with. When I say high intensity, I mean, when you are constantly in communication with a particular co-worker, maybe you do this with your boss or someone who works right next to you every day, these are the kinds of relationships that you want to really understand as much as possible. So when you are developing communications protocols, you're doing so with those pieces in mind, rather than only relying on your implicit assumptions about how communication should happen between two people. For example, between two people, there may be an inside joke or a memory that is shared. This creates a private protocol between those two people, but the thing is that protocol could be mutated, right? That memory or that inside joke, that protocol could be mutated if that joke or memory is shared with a new person. It's no longer private anymore. Furthermore, I can't stress this enough. Each person will have a different perception of messages that are being sent. And because they value different things, each message may end up carrying different underlying emotional and perceived intention. I want you to fully grasp this here. Just because we are different, when I hear one message and you hear the same message, we're going to decode those messages differently, right? We're going to understand what they mean to us differently. I'm not going to understand a message the same way you will. Now, there's going to be overlap. There's going to be linguistic overlap and cultural overlap. But every message is going to be decoded differently. And you have to remember that when you are developing communications protocols between you and other people. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Hope you have enjoyed this discussion on communications protocols. It is certainly not a discussion that is going to be closed out with a single episode of Developer Tea. Communications is a huge field of study. And that inter-change between people that is such a complex and special thing that you should spend some time developing at least some thoughts around this for your own life, for your own relationships. And so I hope you will go and think about how you communicate with other people and how important it is not just to rely on your assumptions, but instead start thinking about the humanity of it and start thinking about what medium is most acceptable, etc. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Once again, and thank you to Dolby, our incredible sponsor. Remember, you can get great quality audio in the browser now. And iOS 10 is supporting this. Safari is supporting it. Windows, Windows browsers supporting it. There's a support for this and it's increasing the quality of users' experience. Users have expressed that they want this increased quality and you can learn more by going to spec out of them slash Dolby. Thank you again to Dolby for sponsoring today's episode. And until next time, enjoy your tea.