Jennifer looks at ways of communicating...
In my volunteer job, which sometimes seems like a full-time job (without the salary), I often deal with budgets and finance issues. While I’m intelligent, math is not my strong suit and I have to find ways of understanding the numbers so that they make sense to me. I’ve taken to asking people to give it to me “in English-major terms.”
People laugh, but really, they shouldn’t. Being able to explain things in terms a variety of people will understand is a communication skill that is essential for working with people. I am an English major and I’m usually good at communicating. I even enjoy finding other ways of explaining things to people so that they understand something—everyone learns different ways and one method won’t necessarily work for everyone.
I think it’s a side benefit of being a writer. Every one of us has a way of writing, our voice. But we also have to write in ways that are true to our characters. Some characters are simple, others are complex. Some characters need to sound male or female or refined or coarse. As the writer, we have to be able to make those characters sound unique. We don’t want every character to be a carbon copy of each other, or, heaven forbid, ourselves! And that’s just for writing fiction.
In previous jobs, I had to write newspaper and magazine articles, often about topics with which I wasn’t familiar. They required enough research to not only understand the topic and to be able to ask intelligent questions, but also to be able to translate that information into something my readers would understand. The goal wasn’t to dumb down the information for someone who had never heard it before, but to make the information relevant to industry professionals.
A good writer can do that. And a good communicator needs to be able to do that as well. So the next time someone says, “That’s not really my area of expertise,” don’t think badly of that person. Rework how you explain your information. It might actually benefit both of you.