It frustrates me greatly that people find communication so challenging. In today’s world, where there are more tools than ever at our disposal, there is simply no excuse for individuals, businesses, even governments not using the resources at their disposal to ensure that the people within their sphere of influence have the information they need in a timely manner.
Take my daughter: a freshly minted ten-year-old, she’s begging for all the trappings of a pre-teen. She wants a Facebook account, a cell phone and carte blanche access to the internet. Newsflash: it isn’t happening. She does have a first generation iPad and this past weekend, I finally broke down and upgraded the operating system when most of the apps on it refused to play or update. It came, unbeknownst to me, with Apple’s version of messaging, iMessage.
You can imagine my shock a few hours later when my own cell phone pops up with a text from none other than my daughter with a “Maman de Yo” on the screen. My child is texting, in French, from one floor away. Out came the rules book: 1. We don’t text in this house, we talk. Face to Face. 2. “Yo Mama” is not how you talk to me. 3. Texting will not be used to communicate with anyone not approved by me… (litany of rules and contract to follow). I am not ready for this!
I am a consumer of communication and I love technology. I like that I can get on the internet and find most anything I need within minutes. I don’t want to make a phone call or “bother” someone if I can, independently, find it myself. I want my questions answered now and this information world of “immediate gratification” has served me well. But it does periodically break down…
My City decided the other night to take on a utility project on the street in front of my house. Because our street is an emergency route and sees heavy traffic during daytime hours, they decided to do the work at night. Unfortunately, no one bothered to inform the residents along the route of the work that they were about to endure ten straight hours of Hell.
You can imagine the shock of many when heavy equipment, high-powered work lights and utility vehicles started showing up at 9:00 p.m. Within a matter of minutes, the sounds of asphalt being ripped up, earth moved and (unceremoniously) dumped into waiting trucks filled the air. All night long we heard the sounds of front-end loaders, jack hammers, back-up warning sirens and workers hard at their job. No black-out curtains could kill the glow. It was not a good night.
Calls to the City’s Public Work’s “After Hours” number rang unanswered. Calls to the City’s Non-Emergency Police number repeatedly were dropped. There was no information about the project on the Public Utility Department’s website. A marquee at the entrance to our street warned the street would be closed one day earlier – it wasn’t – so clearly, this had been a planned project. Even calls to Council Members could not explain the nature of the work. In short…there was a major lapse in communication.
The after-action steps revealed many shortcomings: someone dropped the ball on putting door-hangers on resident’s doors to let them know of the work. No one can explain why the after-hours phone was unanswered. No one can explain why the City website doesn’t have a calendar of planned projects for residents to view. No one seems to be concerned about the fact that a non-emergency phone system is inoperable. And the marquee remains flashing at the top of the street, still with the wrong date. My City has not mastered effective communication.
Communication is a really simple process. So many take it for granted and let it make the most innocent of issues explode into challenges of seemingly epic proportion. Words get lost in translation … tone gets misunderstood … feelings are unintentionally hurt. The importance of what we say, how we say it and when, where and who we say it to can never be taken for granted.
Don’t assume others know what you need them to know. Tell them yourself. Face-to-face is always best, when you can. And, if you have a ten-year-old…no texting allowed!