Effective Communication Skills Tips from a Self-Professed Geek

Posted by Bridget Beirne
July 11, 2014

Yes, I am a Geek.

In fact, I am a few brands of Geek. First and foremost, I am a Musical Theatre Geek. Long before the young people of Glee made it acceptable to throw the name "Stephen Sondheim" around, I was spouting things like, "Oh! I love how the B of this song releases into the chorus here!" or "This score clearly has roots in Gilbert and Sullivan" or "There's nothing worse than bad Lerner and Lowe! Let me tell you why...' 

See? Geek.

I'm also a History Geek, (Don't get me started about the reign of Henry VIII...) a Shakespeare Geek (Yes, I have read Hamlet aloud for fun.) a Game of Thrones Geek (Don't watch with me! I've read the books!) and a few other geeky flavors. I'm proud to embrace my inner Geek.

Geekdom is formed around a (hopefully!) healthy obsession over a particular topic. There can be geeks of all different kinds. (Wondering what's the exact difference between a Geek and a Nerd? Find a fun definition here.) However, one of the greatest attributes of any Geek is their inner need to communicate their deep passion about their area of expertise. (Incidentally, the Geek always has some good, persuasive speech topics ready to go, as they convince the masses that they are truly missing out on something in life if they don't learn about x,y, or z.)

What are some of the effective communication skills employed by the Geek, and how can you embrace your inner Geek and use them for yourself? Speaking as a Geek, let me share some of my favorite aspects of geeky communication:

1. The Geek is well-informed: Whatever their area of expertise, the Geek has done their homework. They effectivecommunicationskillsknow the facts about their content inside and out. (Hey, I actually have a degree in one of my areas of geekdom... No, it is not Game of Thrones. Although, if someone is offering...) They may have actually built the software system they're in love with, studied maritime law in their free time for years, or slaved over a hot stove until the proportions of the ver blanc sauce were just right. They know their stuff, because they care to learn about it inside and out. 

2. The Geek is willing to learn more: Just like being able to say "I don't know" in a Q&A session, if you stump a geek in conversation, they are willing to go find out the correct information rather than dishonor their topic with misinformation. I once had someone question a very specific Sondheim lyric- even though I was pretty sure I was right, I was willing to admit that there was a chance that I was not. And if I was not right, this was important enough to get to the bottom of! So, I went back to research to find the right answer. Any time your content is that important to you, should be willing to continue to question and verify your own info, especially if you're ever unsure. (For the record, I was right. But I digress...)

3. The Geek does not shy away from their personal stamp: When it comes to communication, one of the biggest things that can sway an audience is the unique passion of the speaker. The geek is not afraid to let that personal stamp shine through. I can recall being at a conference years ago where a very young tech entrepreneur was describing the (at the time) revolutionary in-game app that he had developed. He was so excited about it, that even as a non-gamer I was swept up in his passion! 

4. The Geek always knows what they want from their listeners: They want them to geek out, as well! Think about your friend who's obsessed with Sherlock, or 17th century art, or tech gadgets of any kind- the first thing they say is that they want you to watch, see, or try whatever it is. Because they so clearly know how they want their audience to feel and what they want them to do, there is no question of their motives in communication. 

And one thing we Geeks could work on:

5. Brevity should be the soul of geekiness!: Ah, it's hard to keep it short when discussing something you love. But we should bear in mind that boring your listener to tears is a quick way for them to lose your message completely. (Henry VIII had 6 wives- I've watched my boyfriend's eyes glaze over by the time my diatribe has hit wife #2...) It takes sharpening your self-awareness and self-management skills a bit to rein in your talk and  know when your audience is done. No one wants to be "talked at"- everyone wants to be "engaged with"!

Perhaps the more we all Embrace Our Inner Geek, the more we can come together in our geekiness and have an open dialogue and exchange of passionate ideas that we all can celebrate. The Dr. Whovians will mingle with the Classic Car Restorationists, the Bronte-lovers and the Astrophysicists will share their insights, the Knitting Enthusiasts will chat with the Macaron-Obsessed, and the communication will flow.  

Got any comic book geeks out there? Here's something we think you might enjoy:

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