Communication can make or break a team. Being clear and concise instead of vague can make all of the difference when it comes to your experiences in teamwork. We have all had times where we felt like our communication was smooth, and other times when we struggled to explain ourselves. Regardless of the good days and the bad, having the ability to communicate effectively is an essential skill to being a part of a team.

The Good

In my hometown I worked at a small café named Quotations. It was the summer before I left for school and the town was bustling with people. The “White Squirrel Festival” was without a doubt the busiest weekend of the summer, and I was stuck right in the middle of it working at Quotations. I was prepared for the constant stream of customers that day, I had worked for months learning the different roles our team had to play.

On a normal day, four people could run the shop: a person taking orders, a person making drinks, someone making food, and someone prepping the stations and running food. However, the weekend of the festival was not a normal day. Our system was broken down by customers begging for refreshments to escape the July heat. They seemed to come from all sides. The hours flew by as we took in stride the endless orders of iced coffee and fruit smoothies.

Even though our normal method of doing things had been disrupted, one thing did allow us to work together and get the job done. Our ability to calmly communicate in spite of the stress kept our team operating smoothly. When one person had to run to put out fires elsewhere, their station would be momentarily covered by another. By keeping each other in constant communication, it allowed us to navigate the entire weekend. The reason that we were able to communicate so well was because we were patient with one another, and very understanding. We were detail oriented and created an environment that was comfortable and fun instead of a busy mess. It was not one person doing all of the explaining and work, but a collaborative team meshing together to run the business. By creating this environment, we all channeled our stress into an adrenaline rush and as a result it was a positive experience for everyone.

The Ugly

During my freshman year, I took CSC 226 Software Design and Implement. We were working in groups of four to come up with a “Top-down design” document for a particularly difficult problem. The comfort that I felt alongside my fellow coworkers at Quotations was not present. The group was silent as we were all focusing on our own individual solutions. When the silence had gone on too long, I decided to venture my thoughts forward.

I was timid in my approach because I did not completely understand the problem and did not have all of the details worked out. One member of the group shot holes through my general solution, stating that it did not cover any of the detailed parts of the problem. I stuttered to explain that it was just a starting point to be expanded upon, but for some reason I couldn’t quite explain myself. It left a really awkward situation, with the other member kind of angrily muttering that we needed to cover all of the details, and me trying to find the words to explain myself. Our other group members just sat there, now nervous to speak as well.

I learned a lot from this situation and I am actually on really good terms with the group member who pointed out the flaws in my solution. I think the reason that it belly-flopped so hard was because I was not confident or clear in what I was saying. I proposed a very vague starting point as a way to get us talking, but it came across as the end-all plan that was cutting corners. When questioned about the details, I did not have the answers because I had not had time to contemplate the harder aspects of the problem. A better way to have went about it would have been to say something along the lines of, “I think we should start by nailing down the different aspects of the problem, a vague solution that we can build upon would be to . . . *insert solution here*”. This would have alleviated the stress that I caused by being unclear. In the end, communication really is a skill that you will be building upon your entire life.