I love to talk. Anyone who knows me can vouch for that statement. My coworkers and I often joke about the fact that the lab was far quieter and far less invested in one another’s personal lives before I began my internship. Since a young age, I have always enjoyed talking to people and learning about their lives and what makes them who they are because despite talking so much, I am a fine listener. So, when the biggest obstacle I faced was communication, I was obviously a little thrown.
Working here, I have had to train new undergraduates and give my superiors detailed recaps of how much of what substance I put into a digestion or where exactly I put the most recent isolate and what was it. It quickly made me realize a severe lack in proper communication skills on my part. Not only does my head move faster than my mouth leading to a very mild stutter, but I often assume that if I try hard enough that people will be able to read my mind just know when I say “I put it in the, um…the…the thing, ya know,” that I mean “I put it in the thermocycler and ran it on 32 cycles.” Which people often will fill in the gaps with the information I left out and double check with me, but if they don’t, it can lead to money being spent to sequence a sample that we have already sequenced or using a centrifuge tube as a weight (use water instead of extraction solutions) instead of running a blank (uses the extraction solutions but has no sample in it). I have also realized that just like I assume others can read my mind, I assume I can read theirs and will try to finish their sentence as opposed to listening to the entire sentence in case I am on a different page.
I can’t say that I have completely learned how to overcome this obstacle in spoken communication, but I have begun to pay closer attention to it. Now when I am giving direction or communicating information, after I am asked the question I take at least 3 seconds to compose my thoughts before beginning to speak. This in combination with speaking slower has given me greater control over what I am saying and allows me to better communicate details with my coworkers. I still catch myself interrupting or preemptively finishing sentences, but I am beginning to pay more attention to that and apologizing when I do, letting them finish their thoughts before interjecting with mine. By learning to communicate more effectively, I have opened the door to greater learning and frankly, I sound more intelligent.