Strong Communication Skills: 10 Tips for IT Professionals

Good IT professionals know technology. Great IT professionals also know communications. I’m not referring to TCP/IP protocols, but rather to the person’s ability to discuss IT concepts with both technologists and with non-techies. Strong communication skills are critical for IT professionals, yet they are rarely emphasized in IT training or education programs.

Here are my 10 tips for IT professionals who want to improve their communication skills:

  • Empathy is key. What is important to your listener? Frame the conversation from his or her perspective.
  • Watch out for tech jargon. Terms and acronyms that are second-nature to you, might be foreign to the other person.
  • Be careful not to sound superior when discussing topics in which you think you’re better informed.
  • If one or two email messages don’t explain your perspective, switch to phone or in-person communications.
  • Use email to prepare the person for a meeting or a phone conversation.
  • Don’t respond in the heat of the moment. Let your emotions cool off before hitting the Send button or picking up the phone.
  • Find the best timing for the conversation: some people are grumpy in the mornings, sleepy after lunch and in a hurry at 5pm.
  • If the person doesn’t respond to your first email or voice message, don’t take it personally. Follow up.
  • Conclude the conversation by agreeing on the next steps, who will do what and what the due dates are.
  • Be brief.

For more communication tips, take a look at my one-page Troubleshooting Human Communications cheat sheet.

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About the Author

Lenny Zeltser is a seasoned business and technology leader with extensive information security experience. He builds creative anti-malware solutions as VP of Products at Minerva. He also trains incident response and digital forensics professionals at SANS Institute. Lenny frequently speaks at industry events, writes articles and has co-authored books. He has earned the prestigious GIAC Security Expert designation, has an MBA from MIT Sloan and a Computer Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

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