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The Importance of Thoughtful Communication in the Building Code Forum


Forum Coordinator
Oct 16, 2009
Somewhere Too Hot & Humid
I've been mulling over the idea of this article for quite some time, wanting to address a topic close to both my professional heart and personal experience. The challenge, however, was finding the right way to articulate the complex and often nuanced aspects of communication within our field. Recently, I sought some assistance to help put my thoughts into words, and what follows is the result of that collaboration.

I must admit, this topic hits home for me. In the fast-paced world of building codes and regulations, where every detail matters, I've often found myself reacting quickly rather than responding thoughtfully. It's an easy trap to fall into, especially in the digital realm where our interactions lack the human nuances of face-to-face conversation. This article is as much a reminder to myself as it is advice to others. It reflects a journey towards better communication, a skill that is continually evolving and improving with each interaction.

So, as you read on, know that this comes from a place of personal learning and growth. I hope it resonates with you, offering insight and a mirror to reflect on your communication practices within our professional community.

The Importance of Thoughtful Communication in the Building Code Forum

In the world of building codes and regulations, where precision and clarity are paramount, how we communicate in forums and online discussions holds significant weight. As members of The Building Code Forum, it is crucial to acknowledge the impact of our words and the potential for misinterpretation, especially in an environment where digital communication is the norm.
Understanding the Intent vs. Perception Dynamic
The first step in mindful communication is recognizing the gap that often exists between intent and perception. When we post a comment or reply to a discussion, our intent is framed by our personal understanding and experiences. However, the way others perceive our words can be vastly different. This discrepancy is heightened in online forums, where we lack non-verbal cues like tone of voice and body language, which play a critical role in conveying our true intent.
Examples of Miscommunication in Our Forum
Consider a scenario where a member asks for advice on a complex code issue. Another member, intending to be helpful, replies with a brief and direct answer. While the intent was to provide efficient assistance, the recipient might perceive the response as curt or dismissive, leading to misunderstandings. Similarly, debates on code interpretations can quickly escalate if members perceive opposing views as personal attacks rather than professional discourse.
Strategies for Effective Communication
To foster a positive and productive environment in The Building Code Forum, consider these strategies:
  1. Clarify Your Intent: Before posting, ask yourself if your message is clear and how others might interpret it. Use precise yet considerate language, and avoid jargon that might not be universally understood.
  2. Read Twice, Post Once: Always re-read your post before hitting the 'send' button. This pause can give you the chance to consider how your words might be received and to make any necessary adjustments.
  3. Assume Positive Intentions: When reading posts from others, give them the benefit of the doubt. If something isn’t clear, politely ask for clarification instead of jumping to conclusions.
  4. Active Listening (or Reading): In discussions, ensure you fully understand the other person’s point of view before responding. This practice shows respect and can prevent unnecessary conflicts.
  5. Constructive Criticism: If you need to critique someone's interpretation or suggestion constructively. Focus on the content, not the person, and offer alternative solutions or viewpoints.
  6. Acknowledging and Apologizing for Missteps: If a misunderstanding occurs, be quick to acknowledge it and apologize if necessary. This approach can defuse tensions and maintain a healthy professional relationship among members.
The Impact of Thoughtful Communication
By being more thoughtful in how we communicate, we avoid misunderstandings and build a stronger, more collaborative community. Our forum becomes a place where diverse opinions and expertise are shared in a respectful manner, enhancing our collective understanding of building codes and regulations.
In summary, as members of The Building Code Forum, let's strive to communicate in a way that respects the intent behind our words and considers how others might perceive them. By doing so, we uphold the professional integrity of our field and contribute to a more knowledgeable and supportive community.
Read Twice, Post Once: Always re-read your post before hitting the 'send' button. This pause can give you the chance to consider how your words might be received and to make any necessary adjustments.
All great points. I post a lot of questions, I wish I could answer as many as I ask! Often I ask because I have not encountered a given situation, and have read every code application I can find but either don't understand it or need clarification. Sometimes I am just looking for validation. It is impossible to convey that I have searched for the obvious, so much of the time the obvious answers are presented in replies, but I try to take them all in, relevant or not, and search for the points I missed or the nuances that escape me.

The Read Twice, Post Once point is especially relevant for me. Many, many times, I have written questions or answers, then re-read them, revised them, and a lot of times deleted them. Sometimes because I don't have the time (or words) to convey the thought, sometimes because a reply may seem unnecessarily argumentative, sometimes because the answer is too filled with reactive emotion, and a lot of times because I realize I may be in over my head on the given topic.

I use this same technique in many other situations, especially when crafting plan review comments. It is difficult to be precise and concise at the same time. I re-read and revise almost every comment I make so that I convey the thought in as few words as possible while trying to convey the information in a way that provokes an accurate response. I really dislike phone calls that ask me what I mean, because it means I didn't do a good enough job. The same holds here on this forum. Sometimes I read responses and have to re-read my post because I realize I wasn't clear enough. The read twice, post once works for this, although I often read 3 or 4 times before posting (or deleting).
It just might be that my personality is not a good fit with your vision for the forum.
I try to be civil, but I'm just naturally terse.

Sometimes the best contributions have been made by the least civil posters. Just try not to take somebody disagreeing with your opinion as a personal insult that has to be avenged. Sometimes it's best to just agree to disagree.
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I think that they are all good points, and it wouldn't hurt to consider them prior to posting on the forum. Maybe a post won't always fit into the boxes, but at least considering what your post might sound like is worth a few extra seconds.

I have been guilty of fastest fingers more than a couple times..........once it is sent, it is done.

And yes, I have been known to apologize.


Thanks Jeff.