Thursday, October 27, 2011

Think Descriptively

People describe things terribly. I have known that for years, but it has never been as clear to me as it is now coaching some inexperienced college kids and regularly working with Indians. Two examples:

Me, "Is A welded to B along the bottom edge?" There was a picture to look at.
Indian coworker on our instant messenger, "y"
Me, "Yes?"
Indian coworker, "yes"

Now that was a simple y versus why misunderstanding. Often the description goes the other way and I communicate terribly. I would give an example but my errored writing does not compare to the vague run-on sentences I often use describe things. Besides I try to put the exact words out of my memory after one of my blubbering incidents.

Me to one of my athletes running a workout alone after the fourth of six 1200m intervals, "How do you feel?"
Sophomore student athlete, "Okay" in a tone that meant something hurt despite running good times.
Me, "Use more descriptive words."
Sophomore student athlete, "Well, my shin hurts a little, besides that I feel good."
From there we talked more about the details of how he was feeling, but if I had not prompted him to say more, I would have no idea his shin was hurting.

I find the best way to be more descriptive and clear to other people is use context clues and pictures to describe my point. If I can draw a picture that has thus far always gotten the point across. When drawing a picture is impractical I find it convenient to use numbers as much as possible to describe the issue quantitatively. Finally using generalizations to get the point across usually helps too. Example: "The longer the tail and larger the radius typically spreads out the strain better on a doubler or at a perpendicular intersection." It may not be very descriptive but if we are talking about a specific plate or intersection it generally describes what I want to do.

So I encourage you to answer questions in the future with a little positive and a little negative instead of "fine" or "good".

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