Communication skills: what are they?

We were recently discussing how essential communication skills are for a tester. We all agree that they are valuable, but are they number 1? More valuable than bug reporting, problem solving, etc? Well, I’m afraid we can’t draw a line between them. Not only are they interrelated; testers with coping skills overcome a lack of one skill using others instead.

Communication VS bug reporting skills?

So Joel Montvelisky limit Communication skills - both verbally and written to the

be able to communicate clearly and accurately, without going around in circles and knowing how to differentiate between the noise and the important stuff in his message.

I believe a bug report is a message which should be clear and accurate. However Joel separate communication from technical skills, including bug reporting skills and say these skills can be learned quickly enough. Cem Kaner & James Bach in their BBST course has a lesson called
Bug advocacy: How to win friends, influence programmers, and stomp bugs. Isn’t this a part of communication game to win friends among developers? And I keep discovering that this is not so easy to learn for most of the testers.

More technical skills affecting communications

Problem solving skill also helps you to win friends. If you can’t solve any problem yourself, can’t do a search before asking, if your teammates are bored of your dumb questions – do you really think some “communication skills” will help you? Maybe if you are a blond girl 90-60-90…
If you have to communicate with developers, knowing a programming language that developers use, knowing UML and able to discuss it … all those technical skills may improve your chance to communicate well.

Communication skill categories

As much as I’ve studied communication stuff I could divide my skills in several categories in may different ways. First we could look at skills to deliver a message (monologue, presentation or e-mail) and skills conversational skills. The last include listening skills and ability to provide fast (immediate) feedback. We could talk about verbal skills (keep ayes contact with auditory, keep the peace of the talk, swinging arms, etc.) and written skills, but I think any written communication skills (preparing the content of the presentation) also apply to verbal communication (presentation).

Choosing the communication type

I prefer face-to-face communication. Emails and chat are also quite OK. But I don’t really like phone calls. I could explain why but it’s a different story. The message is this: my phone bills are very small, close to zero. I could almost always find ways to avoid phone calls. Well I’m not proud of it. I just want to say that there is never the only right way to do things, so there are no the right set of skills for a tester.

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