Mechanical engineers are known for having a direct communication style. When it comes to working with people outside the field, such as those in purchasing or quality assurance, this type of frank talk can cause misunderstandings.
Communication includes more than words – it also encompasses tone, body language, eye contact and inflection. Keeping these in check along with the following will help to ease tension in conversations with non-engineers.
- Patience, Please
It’s frustrating when someone else is not up-to-speed on a project and its requirements. Taking a few moments to check in before jumping into project specifics helps to set the conversation’s tone. Ask prompting questions such as, “How familiar are you with the tractor’s load requirements?” before asking a detailed question. This method can provide more accurate and efficient answers.
- Understandable Language – Know Your Audience
Not everyone is on the same page when it comes to technical lingo. Whether it’s explaining what a tie rod is to a junior buyer or showing an engineering intern why a mast guide’s load capacity is not sufficient for an application, use language that is familiar to the recipient.
For example, a buyer most likely doesn’t need to understand the chemical compositions in POM or PTFE self-lubricating materials. Using a simple, thoughtful explanation will suffice, such as: “Oil isn’t needed in this application because PTFE, a fabric liner, is sintered to the bushing to act as a lubricant.”
- Delete Acronyms
Every industry has a host of acronyms – including engineering. It takes just a few seconds to say inner diameter, outer diameter and newton meter in place of ID, OD and Nm. A non-engineer may misinterpret the acronym or be too embarrassed to ask what it means. If your message is not properly received, it can lead to confusion.
- Pick up the Phone
In the business setting, electronic communication makes it easy to send a request or get a quick answer. However, if the communication string has gone beyond two replies, it’s time for either an in-person or phone conversation.
It’s easy for mechanical engineers to get entrenched in the details, after all it’s one of the qualities of successful project management. When it comes to improving the communication gap between departments, pulling back on deep technical information to non-engineers can go a long way in furthering the discussion.