proper words to communicate the technical message required, within the context of the other party’s knowledge, culture, and language skills.
Advances in technology have both helped and hindered communication. Communication devices are ubiquitous. If something is needed right now, it can be summoned by telephone (generally a cell phone that is immediately available), by walkie-talkie, by texting, or by many other means. This is convenient but has led to inefficiencies. It tends to minimize the emphasis on pre-planning since, if something is overlooked, it can be solicited immediately. It also tends to be disruptive to the person on the other end of the communication. When I contact someone at my convenience, it is highly likely that they will be distracted from the activity in which they are engaged.
Communication plays a part in virtually everything the supervisor does. Whether the supervisor is directing the work of a crew, evaluating the performance of workers, developing documentation, asking for clarifications, or providing answers to questions, it involves communication.
One of the key functions of the supervisor is to serve as the link between the worker and the rest of the world. Information the worker gets comes primarily through the supervisor. This information could be from the designer, another contractor, or the company office. Information the rest of the world needs about the work is communicated through the supervisor. Such information may be needed by the company office, other contractors involved in the project, material suppliers, or the project owner. All of this information, whether going to the crew or coming from the workface, passes through the supervisor.
Because of the fundamental importance of communication to the work of the construction supervisor, it can be concluded that time and effort spent in honing communication skills is well invested. The rest of this chapter focuses on oral communication. The next chapter deals with written communication and documentation.
IMPROVING ONE-ON-ONE ORAL COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Oral communication, at best, is not very effective. Studies have shown that when people are attentive, they absorb about 50% of what they hear. After a week, people remember only about 20% of what they initially absorbed. So after a week, 90% of what a person hears is lost.
However, oral communication is essential. It is quicker than written communication. In addition, since many people do not have a high level of reading comprehension or a high level of writing skill, oral communication is more efficient. It is simply impractical to write everything out.
Oral communication is a skill, and as a skill, it can be improved with training and practice. One way to improve oral communication is to recognize barriers to