When I was a senior in college, I was told I had to take another elective that pertained to my degree plan in business. The only thing I was writing at that time was song lyrics because I was making my living touring in a Christian band and producing indie artists. But I saw a class called “Logic and Technical Writing” that would count as an elective. The professor was an older, respected gentleman at the university that I had never taken.
Here was a typical class day. He would walk in, take role, and then hold up something like a number two pencil and say, “I am an alien who has just landed on this planet. I know nothing about your life except I can speak and read your language. Write me a one-page paper, as concisely as possible with instructions as to how to use this device. You have 25 minutes. Go!
He did this same assignment with a hammer, a glass of water, a phone, and the list goes on.
At the end of the time limit, he would take up the papers, and with the pencil lying on the desk, he would pull a random paper out and start reading. Doing exactly as the paper read, 90% of the time it was both hilarious and sad to see how much we assume in our communication. We assume prior knowledge, context, past communication, past memory, and a pro-active person on the receiving end.
That experience from one crazy little elective class with the funny name gave me knowledge that I literally use every day of my life now that I am full-time writer. I think different. I write different. I am better at flow. I am better at context. I am better at not making assumptions on my readers. I did not say I have this mastered, I said I am better and working to improve all the time.
This crazy thing we do all the time called communication is the most wonderful, horrifying, tricky, frustrating, but incredibly necessary thing that we engage in. The vast majority of our issues lie in the simple fact that we assume on our listeners and readers that they should know something we have not yet told them or we distract them with details that are not at all necessary to the message.
So, today, this week, think on this thing. Where are you assuming? Where are you frustrating others and blaming them? Where are you being lazy in what you say, write, and how you listen? The people around us are not aliens but they are alien to what we are trying to tell them until we do the best job of communicating we can.
The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking. —Proverbs 15:28 NLT