How to communicate well REDACTED

Spoilers ahead for Andy Weir’s book, Project Hail Mary.

Chapter seventeen opens on the spaceship Hail Mary with Rocky staring at Grace as he wakes up. “Food! Coffee!” Grace tells the computer. A robotic arm appears with both. The food on Hail Mary is good. So is the computer. “It’s kind of cool that the arms will hand me a cup when there’s gravity, but a pouch when there isn’t,” Grace says.

Grace begins eating, then, “I look at Rocky, ‘You don’t have to watch me sleep. It’s okay.’ He turns his attention to a worktable in his portion of the dormitory. ‘Eridian culture rule. Must watch.‘ he picks up a device and tinkers with it.”

Ok, that settles it. “We have an unspoken agreement,” Grace explains, “that cultural things just have to be accepted. It ends any minor dispute.”

The heart of communication is one individual’s information becoming another individual’s information. Sometimes this is done explicitly. Tom Sachs made a video to encourage communication like “message received”. James Mattis wrote that the critical intent is summed up in the words “in order to”.

Another way to communicate is visually. Good visuals, for instance, are crucial for sports analytics. Don’t tell players what to do, but do show them. “This is always the point that gets made,” said Mike Zarren in 2019 ,”how do you integrate analytics into your organization such that is doesn’t feel like something alien.”

The structure of someone’s communication is probably related to their cadence (is it a pool builder or movie distributor?). For Mattis and the military it had to be fast and firm. For Sachs it has to be clear and certain. Grace and Rocky too have a high cadence, they have problems to solve.

Good communication is a great destination with no singular path. It doesn’t matter how an individual shares their information about the world so long as it becomes someone else’s.

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