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Currently I am happily working for my boss. My boss told me at my contract extension he was happy with me and was thrilled with the work I did.

He told me I do have to work on one thing: communicating within the office about the job I am doing so I can help more where required or where pleased. This can be done for instance during lunch when I overhear conversations where my input could be usefull.

I am the only one on a project, which contains anything related to data and math. My co-workers do not know a lot about the subjects and a presentation I gave a week ago, was quite hard to understand for most. I do find it hard to bring across my field of interest to my co-workers as my study did not prepare me for this and I do not want to belittle them nor do I want to go too deep into detail.

I also need to note that I am an introvert. During lunch for instance I am busy thinking in my head what my next step should be in a process. Sometimes it's quite hard to step in to a work related conversation even though you may possibly make a difference for your co-worker.

To be more specific: How can an introvert communicate better with his co-workers, so they understand better what he's doing (in order to use his specific skills better/more).

Edit: This is a not a duplicate to 'Why is it important to gain “visibility” in the workplace?'. This question is asking why is it important to gain “visibility” in the workplace? it is important too me, I have already acknowledged that and am asking how I can get more visibility, because I am having trouble gaining more visibility due to me having a complete different study and being an introvert.

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marked as duplicate by jcmeloni, Michael Grubey, ReallyTiredOfThisGame, gnat, Jim G. Jun 2 at 22:18

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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One thing I did was spend time participating in meetings and learning what others were doing when it wasn't related to my project. This gained visibility, but also a lot of knowledge. Plus you gain the opportunity to provide insight from your project background. –  Raystafarian Jun 2 at 12:46
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I didn't downvote but reference to "baby-talk" may have offended some people. Also some "my boss told me to X but I really don't know how" questions do attract downvotes. –  Kate Gregory Jun 2 at 17:43
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After reading the question, I'm happy this isn't about workplace prostitution. –  Joe Jun 2 at 18:25
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not really a duplicate. hope to see this question re-opened –  Immer Allein Jun 3 at 8:18
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Even if I were to agree this is not a dup(still on the fence about that) it is still too broad and dartboardy of a question(Throw up a dart and see if it sticks). See Good Subjective, Bad Subjective And try to edit your question so that it is more obviously on the good subjective side and I will vote to reopen. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Jun 3 at 13:38

2 Answers 2

up vote 26 down vote accepted

I see three things that make communication hard for you

  • you are an introvert
  • your colleagues don't understand your work and couldn't follow when you tried to explain it
  • you don't know where your colleagues might need your help

By a delightful coincidence, the exact same technique helps with all three of these issues: ask questions.

When you ask questions, as soon as you stop talking it is someone else's turn to talk. You can keep a conversation going with far less effort than it would take to just offer facts at each other in turns. Most introverts find conversations hard and think they have to be the fact-fact-fact kind. But actually, the "taking turns saying facts" kind of conversation is just one variant. It's most common when the two people have the same level of information and interest in a subject. Imagine two sports fans:

A: I can't believe they are not starting Johnson for this game. B: I know, it's ridiculous! They really need his arm out there. A: For sure, and that kid is no substitute. B: Yeah, really, what is he, 14? A baby!

They can talk this way because they both know who Johnson is, what his arm is like and why the team needs it, and who that kid is. If one of those sports fans was to try to have that conversation with my mother it would go more like this:

Mum: Are you excited about the game? A: Yeah, but I can't believe they are not starting Johnson. Mum: Starting Johnson? Is he a lawnmower or something? A: No, I mean he's not one of the starting players. The coach decided to use someone else. Mum: Well isn't that the coach's job? A: Yes, but I think the coach is wrong. The team really needs his arm. Mum: Come on, don't they all have arms? A: I mean his ability to throw the ball. Against the team we're playing today I think that's more important than any of the other skills.

And so on. My mum is learning about the sport in question, and A is doing most of the talking. You could use this technique to join lunch conversations. Then when you've learned enough about whatever they're discussing to see an application of your work, you could ask some more questions:

So is the issue that the calculation takes too long, or that the answer isn't accurate enough?

You could occasionally toss in a sentence that refers to the benefits of your work, such as "My techniques can let you run the calculations over a far larger sample, which will increase your accuracy." Because of the context you've established in the conversation, they'll understand the importance of your point in a way they might not in a lecture that starts with the history of the field, covers the basics of how to do something simple, and ends with a conclusion about how much the accuracy can be increased. When people don't understand details they can still understand conclusions, especially when expressed in the words and jargon they prefer to use. Learning this jargon comes from joining conversations and really listening, as well as asking questions when you don't understand.

And eventually you might go to your boss and say

I think there's something I can do to help the X group. They have a problem with Y where it can't Z. I think if I A, B, and C that should solve it. Do you think I should suggest it to them? Who should I talk to?

I think that's what your boss is hoping you will do. Along the way people will come to understand what your area of expertise can do for them, even if they never understand how it works. And you will learn more about the applications of your techniques to real world problems, including what those problems actually are and how they affect companies and people.

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I separately want to +1 for the brilliantly illustrative example, the awesomeness of your mother and the "by a delightful coincidence" phrase. However, I can only +1 once so they'll have to share. –  starsplusplus Jun 2 at 17:34
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@starsplusplus my mother is indeed awesome. She has a PhD in materials science and cannot understand any North American sports at all. Only by watching sports with such a person can you truly understand how much you know about, say, football or baseball. –  Kate Gregory Jun 2 at 17:41
    
@KateGregory Unfortunately, swap to my mother and a topic of computers and although the questions are in the same vein, there's no retention. The same conversation can be repeated the next day and the next. She's so sharp in other areas, I'm convinced the whole thing is an act so I'll fix her laptop. +1 Btw for the examples. Very clear –  Basic Jun 2 at 22:19

I have to say when reading your question that you came across as superior and full of self-importance.

I'm sure you didn't intend to give that impression!

I know what it's like to deal with colleagues who lack the desire, inclination (or capability?) to learn something outside their field. It's frustrating and can leave you feeling a little isolated, especially when an introvert from the start.

I'd suggest one or more of the following:

  • Create opportunities to interact. Make a point of visiting the coffee machine / other places co-workers huddle together.

  • Start a conversation. Any conversation from "Hi, how's your day going" to sport/gaming. Being in IT, mobile phones/games/etc are usually good choices for me. Listen to other conversations to pick up topics of interest.

  • Stop considering it "baby-talk". It's the ability to express your chosen discipline in a manner that can be understood by laymen, an important skill that you need to acquire to work effectively with others in different disciplines.

  • Find an aspect of the project that you're passionate about. Something that's innovative or clever. Come up with a brief one or two sentence summary. When you get a chance, tell people! If they show an interest, talk in more depth.

  • As mentioned in another answer, ask questions. Take an interest in what others are doing, it will cause a reciprocal interest in what you're doing. When they explain problems, offer suggestions. Just make sure that you don't belittle their difficulties and use language appropriate to them.

  • If you've done all of the above and still have no success, do the same but with your boss. It helps spread your knowledge and shows that you're making an effort to communicate. Since your boss asked you to do this in the first place, they should have no recourse to complain.

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