Communication Breakdown: #architalks

Every month a group of national and international architects and designers converge together on the world wide web to discuss a singular topic from their own unique point of view. This is:


Communication: It is one of the fundamental human developments that allowed us as a species to subdue and dominate the planet above all other animals. I dare say, without the ability to communicate with each other, to band together as a group and coordinate our activities, we may have never made it out of the jungles of Africa and spread to every corner of the globe. We would have been stuck, limited beyond measure, without the ability to effectively convey ideas, wants, desires, needs. Without communication, humanity would be lost.

Similarly, as an architect, and as a entrepreneur, communication is fundamental to success. The ability to communicate is the single greatest predictor of whether or not a business will succeed or fail. It is the difference between a client signing that proposal or not returning your emails or phone calls; between a successful design or an inferior one; between clients that become friends and clients that you never hear from again. Without the ability to communicate successfully you can not hope to translate all the needs, wants and desires of a client into a cohesive and beautiful design.

But what if you're not a good communicator? Is it a intuitive skill or something that can be learned? If learned, how do you go about it? If you're "a natural" how do you get better? For me, the keys to learning to be a better communicator are listen, think, and respond.

We've all been there with a significant other or a close friend: "you just don't listen to me!" Maybe someone has even pulled out the Chris Tucker line and screamed at you: "DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS THAT ARE COMIN OUTTA MY MOUTH!?" There is an art to listening and it can be learned. It's really easy. Stop talking. If you're not talking, your client is. And if they're talking and you're not then the only option is to listen. And if you know how to listen, and to let people complete their own thought processes, you'll need to ask less questions, and the questions you do ask will be more clear and to the point. You're clients will see that you're listening and work harder to communicate their ideas and their needs.

While you're listening, you need to do a little multi-tasking. Lets face it, if all you do is listen you're not really hearing. Hearing requires thinking. Hearing is what happens when someone talks, you listen, and then you THINK about what they are saying and formulate logical, concise, and intelligent responses. Hopefully. None of this is a linear process. If you were to put it into the form of an image it would probably resemble a bowl of spaghetti as you constantly jump back and forth between listening and thinking. You make mental notes of questions to ask, but then something they say may change your thinking slightly and so you adjust all of this in your mind before, finally, you are ready to respond.

Your response should first be a short series of questions to help clarify any nagging outliers from the first round of listening. Then there will be some back and forth before your next response should be a series of design suggestions for the client to consider. This is usually in both verbal and written form, i.e. drawings. Eventually you arrive at a point where everyone is in complete agreement and perfect understanding with each other and the project. This is the pinnacle of good communication.

As an architect, communication is not limited to words alone. We need to be able to effectively and clearly communicate with our words, our actions, and our drawings. 

Check out these other Architalkers and their views on Communication:

Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Communication and the Question of Relevance

Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
what does it communicate?

Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Types of communication in architecture

Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Talk, Write, Draw -- A Com Hat Trick

Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks #36: Project Amplify

Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Communication - What, How, Why?

Jeffrey Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Tips for Communicating with Your Architect, Interior Designer, or Landscape Architect

Samantha R. Markham - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Why Communication Skills are a Must for Aspiring Architects

Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Who's Bad!

Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Communication in a Yada Yada World

Mark Stephens - Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)

Jane Vorbrodt - Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Explain Yourself...