There are many similarities between software development and online gaming communities. Mainly in the way we communicate. In my previous blog post, I looked at good practices for Discord. Which I based on my experience with Slack and email at work. In this blog post, I would like to dive deeper into the communication.
Both in software development and online communities, we often communicate with each other through text. This could be via forums, email, in-game chat, Discord/Slack, or direct messages. Communicating via text is completely different than via voice chat or face to face. When communicating via text, one thing is very important: written messages miss a lot of contexts and can be interpreted in many different ways.
Communication is not only words
The majority of the messages in a person to person conversation is supported by non verbal signals. This is body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Old research, from 1967, says only 7% of your communication is verbal communication. The words you are actually saying. That percentage is very low and also often questioned in other researches. Regardless of the actual number, non verbal signals are important to support your entire message in a conversation.
When communicating via text or email, you will lose a lot of nuances of non verbal communication. So it’s very important to make sure written messages are worded correctly, to avoid any confusion or possible conflicts. As the sender you are responsible for your own message and that it is received in the way you intended. You should not let the receiver guess how to interpret your message.
The receiver, at the same time, should keep in mind that the sender has the best intentions with his or her message. This is also often something which the online community can struggle with from time to time.
Context, context, context
We try to be very lazy nowadays and try to type as little as possible. This is not very good. Context is very important in written communications. It is good practice to add context to your question, request, or feedback. With added context, it’s clear for the receiver what is the backstory and what is expected from them. Otherwise, you would have to go back and forth first to understand what the original message was about. Adding context saves time, effort, and possible frustration.
Avoid criticism, offer solutions instead
As mentioned in the previous blog post, it’s not good practice to criticize someone in public. This time I take a closer look into criticism (or feedback). The sim racing community is often very eager when giving feedback. Often it is not constructive either.
Often I hear: “This sucks,” or “That decision is bad and you should feel bad.” That is as helpful when a teammate says: “Your setup sucks, it has too much understeer.” Sometimes a person says why I (or we as league) are terrible. That is not exactly constructive either. You cannot be constructive when you are criticizing someone’s work (or someone as a person).
Instead of giving constructive criticism, we should be offering solutions.
Try using this:
“I think you can improve this by doing this or that..” or “I believe this will not work in certain cases. Here is why…”
By offering a solution or your perspective, you are actually helping someone to improve. You gain more knowledge by getting more opinions and perspectives. You are not required to agree with them.
Offering solutions would also help with on track incidents.
Don’t hold grudges
This is great advice, regardless of the situation. I know simracing will remember that one moment when a driver hit you at a certain race. Don’t let this influence your way of communicating, as it will only make the mood tenser.
Also, don’t take such situations into a discussion and use it as an argument. This does not make sense and it is often misplaced. Everybody makes mistakes and you will too.
Think before you write and feel before you send
Communicating through forums, email, in-game chat, or Discord doesn’t have to be dry and robotic. It doesn’t have to risk misunderstanding through laziness either. Next time you are about to send a message, stop and ask yourself: “How would I communicate this in person?”
It is also a good thing to re-read your message before sending. Think about how your tone could be perceived if you would receive it, and you would be in your worst mood.
The simracing is based on interactions. The way we communicate within the community will set the tone for our on-track relationships as well. Take a moment. Try to be more conscious of your tone and the language you use when communicating with fellow sim racers. When we all do this together, we can make the entire sim racing community more pleasant together.