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6 Ways To Communicate Effectively To Get What You Want

engineering culture health and safety office communication podcast women in stem Apr 24, 2023

Maybe numbers and drafts aren’t the most essential part of engineering. Maybe it is the ability to communicate. Many engineers will face difficult decisions that push against their ethics. This is when understanding how to say no while maintaining relationships is essential.


You need to stand your ground — but you also want to stay a team player, part of the solution, and someone who gets the job done. Learning how to communicate effectively not only helps create a safe and productive workplace but also helps you get what you want.


This, according to Aimee Arsenault, is when communication comes to play. As a health and safety consultant, she helps many organizations implement and understand safety standards.


Communication for her is how you navigate those difficult conversations. It’s learning to interact with the people you’re working with while confidently communicating your stance. Body language, tone, and hand signals can even be more important than specific word choice.


Engineers trying to learn technical English may feel overwhelmed when standing their ground. But if you can learn these communication skills, you’ll get a lot farther than knowing every grammar rule or vocabulary word.


Work Culture Affects Organizational Behaviours

Have you ever wondered why a colleague just doesn’t “get it”? You feel like you’ve explained the topic in length, but your coworker still doesn’t understand and might disagree. Do they not listen? 


More often than not, it’s not a language difference but a communication challenge that prevents engineers from seeing eye to eye. “Values, word selection, word choices, and the language people use very much influence and shape the shared values and belief systems of a group of people,” says Aimee in the English for Engineers podcast. Without understanding these cultural nuances, you’ll find yourself struggling to be understood. If people misinterpret your reasoning, you’re unlikely to succeed.


Language, ethics, and thus definitions are based on morals that can vary individually, culturally, and regionally, so don’t assume you understand how an organization operates. One business might value being casual, while another might value bluntness. If you don’t pick up on these cultural nuances, you can find yourself in trouble.



6 Ways To Communicate In International Settings

Communicating with various people isn’t easy, especially if you're a numbers more than a people person. But, if you want to communicate efficiently, you need to learn how to communicate well. Here’s how to do this.


1. Watch and listen

Observing a group gives you a chance to look for communication differences. This practice is helpful in your native or foreign language because the group’s culture goes beyond specific words. Take time to notice how people are interacting. What is the norm with this group of people? How do they greet each other in the morning? Are they usually early, on time, or late for meetings? You’ll pick up on these microcultural elements if you look for them.

Especially in a technical field like engineering, understanding an organization’s culture can help you explain yourself — even if it’s in broken English.


2. Look for the power structure

The person with the most authority in the organization isn’t always the one with the title. Watch for the person coworkers look at during a meeting. Who’s actions are they mirroring? When this person nods, do others nod with them? These body cues point to the person with referent power built by trust and respect — not titles.

Once you find this person, you can evaluate what the organization deems important and how it actually is structured. Is it autocratic? Laissez faire? This will help you better understand the unspoken rules of conduct.


3. Communicate your reasoning

Understand why you make specific decisions on the construction or drafting site. Then when presenting your work, explain your logic following the unspoken “rules” of communication you picked up from observing. If you don’t communicate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, there’s the potential for unintended conflict.


4. Be clear and concise 

When in doubt, be too clear. Define all your terms and acronyms and explain the reasoning and steps you took to get your conclusion. Don’t assume a group understands you even if you’re speaking in a language you’re comfortable in. If you aren’t a native English speaker, let everyone know you’re learning the language. People are much more understanding if you own this upfront.


5. Stay strong with what needs to get done

Be assertive and don’t leave room for negotiating if that’s where your ethical line is. At the same time, recognize the difficulties you might have put someone or the organization in. But most importantly, don’t feel pressured to do something you think is unethical. In the long run, standing your ground will give you a better reputation as an engineer.


6. Learn what organizations support your values

If you’re constantly being ethically challenged, you might want to leave the organization. You shouldn’t always have to fight to hold your line in the sand. It’s draining, you’re not building relationships, and you might give in to something that doesn’t align. If you’re new to engineering, you’ll learn some organizations value ethics and others don’t. If your organization isn’t putting the worker’s health and safety at the forefront, it’s time to move on.


Want to practice?

Hi, I’m Olivia, an engineer turned English teacher for engineers. I help you learn how to communicate effectively and efficiently in English so you can work in various work sites. Check out my offerings for business and technical English here.