Wei Yen

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On professional communications

What does "Professional Communications" mean?

The keyword here seems to be the first word: "Professional". As in, this is about interacting with people in a workplace setting. People who aren't going to be your friends, or even your acquaintances, but who has something you need. It's an unavoidable fact of life that in our working experience, we do not always get to choose who we want to work with. All we can do is to accept that some of our colleagues are going to be terrible people, and that the only way to handle it is to put on a fake smile and "be professional".

Then I realized, that's not entirely true.

The real point is that second word: "communications". At its core, good communication involves being able to transmit your thoughts and ideas to other people, and being able to accept and evaluate their thoughts and ideas. Good communications is more than just being able to write a spiffy letter or deliver a presentation; it involves a heavy dose of empathy and a little bit of self-awareness.

In my past life working in the corporate world, I've always made the effort to be "professional". Show up, smile at the bosses, and go home. It never occurred to me until now that I have never consciously made the effort to be a communicator, much less an effective one.

Over the past 12 weeks or so, I have been doing a course on Professional Communications as part of my Master's course. Over the duration of the course, we've had the opportunity to work in groups, doing meeting simulations and group reports. While I have been through many actual meetings, there's something about being in a situation where there's nothing to lose, that allowed me to take risks and attempt to be a better communicator to others.

Working in groups has also thought me to be more empathetic to other people, to try and understand someone else's point of view. It's the little things, like being charitable in the interpretation of someone else's opinion, and not being too dismissive of others.

This spirit of cooperation has led to at least one concrete result - my assessment marks have actually improved from the previous semester, because I was better equipped to discuss topics and share ideas with fellow students.

The course itself had a rocky start, but towards the end, I have learned valuable life lessons about being able to communicate my thoughts and ideas to other people. You can't avoid working with awful people, but you can try not to be an awful person yourself.