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The Newcomer

Say what?

A friend of mine got chewed out because she commented that she would like to have a long visit with one of her kids, but he was too busy. What left her lips wasn't what reached someone else's ears.

My friend was actually saying she put a visit from her child at the top of her priority list. What others heard was that her son didn't give her enough time.

The incident reminded me of that kid's game we used to play called Gossip. You sat in a circle and whispered into the ear of the person next to you, and they repeated what they heard to the one next to them. Never did the passed message turn out to be the same as the first whispered words.

Communication is important, and the breakdown in communication causes a lot of problems.

In the case of my friend, a friendly talk with her child probably straightened things out, but the potential for hurt was still there.

On the bigger scene, miscommunication can cause a lot of damage. It amazes me how many times communication is garbled. If you untangle any controversy, nine times out of 10 you'll find miscommunication, poor communication or no communication at the root of it.

I used to be a consultant for the print media, and would be free to roam through newspapers to try to puzzle out an answer to some knotty problem they hadn't been able to solve.

One instance was pretty typical of what I dealt with-Discord had raised its ugly head. A sales rep was being highly unsuccessful; a production employee was turning out mediocre, rather than creative, work. Both employees were unhappy and showing it. I made a few sales calls with the rep, then talked with the production person for five minutes.

In my time with them, I learned that the introverted sales rep was hankering for a quiet, creative niche, and the extrovert in the production department was yearning to be set free to sell the product she loved, but didn't love putting together.

Let them switch jobs-problem solved.

The bottom line: the publisher paid me to do what could have been done in a simple one-on-one conversation.

Communication-powerful, yet so fragile.

One key to better communication: encourage talk, but remember to listen.

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