Archive for the ‘Miscommunication’ Category

Service of Pick up the Phone Already: When Written Communication Runs Amok

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Photo: connectmogul.com

Here’s an example of miscommunication in the extreme illustrating the potential impact of careless texting or hastily written messages of any kind.

The friend who shared this story received tragic news that blessedly turned out to be poor communications. She is a meticulous writer, speaker, retired PR manager at a major corporation and longtime instructor of Management Communication. She said if she were currently teaching a class she would use this as an example of what happens if you don’t consider what the recipient of your text or email might be thinking. The lesson applies to both personal and business communications.

I have made up the names of the characters in this tale.

  • My friend will be Maude
  • Her friend, the grandmother, Pam
  • Pam’s husband, the grandfather, Fred
  • Pam’s sister, Steph, is also a good friend of Maude’s and is the baby’s great aunt

Maude’s friend Pam traveled to be with her son and daughter-in-law last week for the birth of their second child. Her husband, Fred, stayed at home. The delivery of their first grandchild, now three, was extremely difficult. But their grandson, born on Maude’s birthday, was a healthy 9 lb baby and angelically beautiful. His mother, too, was fine.

Photo: rainmaker-strategies.com

The day after the infant was born, Pam’s sister, Steph, sent Pam a text telling her that she’d just bought a few things for the baby.

Pam texted in response: “We lost boy around noon today.”

Shocked, Steph called Maude. I happened to call Maude moments after she’d heard from Steph. Usually unshaken, Maude was stunned.

Pam has many siblings and they frequently invited Fred to have dinner with them while Pam was with the young family in the East.  When she opened the door, she told Fred that she was so sorry and he replied that he “knew this would happen a long time ago,” which was news to Steph.

Fred continued, “I was with him.” Odd, given that the baby was born over 1,000 miles away. “When I saw him this morning I knew he wasn’t going to make it.” Puzzling still.

In her distress and alarm over what she’d interpreted as the sudden death of her grandnephew, Steph forgot that Pam and Fred had a cat named “Boy.” It is he who had died.

Photo: thenation.com

An aside: Maude was telling me the story on the phone as she was getting a manicure. The manicurist apologized for eavesdropping and asked if the woman who’d written the text was American because “a native English speaker wouldn’t have written that.” Even this didn’t trigger an aha! moment because the baby didn’t yet have a name.

She wondered whether Pam had read what Steph had written about her purchases before responding with her news. As importantly, did Pam consider what might be on her sister’s mind given the family’s focus on the new addition? Maude advised for important information, don’t rely on hastily written texts and emails. If you don’t have time to reread then wait until you do or pick up the phone. Do you agree?

Photo: blog.near-me.com

Service of Make it Clear and Keep Your Fingers Crossed

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Photo: theatlantic.com

Photo: theatlantic.com

 

Misunderstandings happen all the time between vendors who try to please and clients who hear what they hope or want to hear. Who knows who is right but clearly everyone can lose by winning.

In the first instance there’s Alec Baldwin and a well known New York art gallery owner Mary Boone. Baldwin “is suing Mary Boone in New York Supreme Court claiming the art dealer duped him into buying a $190,000 painting which was a copy,” wrote Hili Perlson on artnet.com

Alec Baldwin. Photo: ora.tv

Alec Baldwin. Photo: ora.tv

In 2010 Baldwin thought he bought Ross Bleckner’s 1996 painting “Sea and Mirror” owned by an “unnamed collector” and said he got “a different version” of a picture with the same title and that Boone had put the gallery inventory number of the original on the work he bought.

Through her lawyer the gallery owner said that “Baldwin was made aware from the start he was not getting the original 1996 version of the painting.” Nevertheless, Boone has offered a full refund.

But Baldwin wants more. Perlson wrote he wants: “the difference between the purchase price of the painting in his possession and the current value of the original Sea and Mirror, which was painted, as Baldwin claims, while Bleckner was at the height of his artistic career.”

I’ve written before about the second instance that is so fitting to the topic and worth a repeat. An interior decorator carefully explained to her client—in front of a third person—that fabricating stationary window panels instead of curtains would save on the cost of the very expensive drapery textile she’d chosen, with a drawback: The panels, she told this friend-of-a-friend, would not move and would not fully cover the window. The client was fine with the sketch and the savings and said she could live with the downside and the panels were ordered and installed.

stationary-drapery-panelArriving home and seeing the panels the client called the decorator in fury: “They don’t cover the window!” she fumed and said she wouldn’t pay for them. The third person, who had introduced the two, would not take sides.

Had the interior decorator asked her client to sign or initial the sketch she made on which she’d noted her warning that might have helped IF the client was willing to put her John Hancock to the sheet. [The client was a lawyer.] Had the gallery owner asked Baldwin to sign something that detailed what his $190,000 was getting him, his nose might have been out of joint, only earlier, perhaps avoiding the current muddle.

Proving a client/customer is wrong is messy and the worst business prescription. In the end it doesn’t matter how much paperwork a vendor has to prove a point unless the business retains pounds and pounds of legal support and has deep pockets budgeted for lawsuits. Apart from an airtight insurance policy to cover such misunderstandings, must most businesses expect to swallow such losses? Have you heard of similar examples?

Win by losing

Service of Following Instructions

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

following-instructions

On a recent Sunday, Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, spoke to the C-Span audience of “Washington Journal” about three who were killed by falling into a waterfall at Yosemite National Park. On the program, “State of America’s National Parks,” Jarvis noted that there were barricades and signs indicating the dangers and that the three ignored all warnings, climbed over the barricade, slipped on the wet rocks and plummeted to their deaths.

So I got to think about instructions especially because I live in a city with roads increasingly painted with bus and bike lane lines with giant white lettering that umpteen taxis and commercial vans ignore, a city where millions cross the street wherever they may be when the light turns green, faghedabout crosswalks.

hot-stoveSome young children must touch a stovetop regardless of how many times they are instructed not to put their fingers near the heat. They continue to test rules into adulthood. Surely successful entrepreneurs, scientists, politicians and corporate chiefs share the trait–they must test and question, usually for the good, though sometimes they get burned. A friend’s brilliant brother–full scholarship at MIT in engineering–blew off all the fingers of one hand when setting off fireworks in high school: Experiment gone bad.

reading-instructionsMany ignore instructions that come with appliances and devices and wonder why, when they click the “on” switch, they don’t work. [I’ve always thought that if many of these companies cared about their instructions they’d hire me or someone like me to write them as most are impossible to follow, but now I’m off point.]

follow-instructions2I took the photo [right] in a doctor’s waiting room. I swear I didn’t style the shot by moving the soda bottle and napkin next to the sign: “Please do not eat or drink in our waiting room we appreciate your cooperation.”

And how many times do able-bodied people slip into a handicapped parking space “just for a second,” to run for some milk, a paper or to buy a lotto ticket?

rxHow many follow instructions that come with pharmaceuticals or doctor’s orders about lifestyle and diet?

What about recipes? Do you strictly adhere? I think it matters when baking, though I got away with brown and white sugar mixed because I didn’t have any light brown sugar to make devil’s food cupcakes the other week.

Are you the type that follows instructions? Have you paid the price when you haven’t? Is there something telling about the personality of a person who consistently does or doesn’t?

follow-instructions-2

Service of Miscommunication

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

miscommunicate2

We communicate through actions and words and yet I don’t think that some comprehend their impact or the impressions they make when they are misleading, inaccurate or unclear.

A beggar on the sidewalk with a sign on a cardboard box asking for money was puffing a cigarette. He may have picked a butt off the sidewalk or perhaps someone gave him the cigarette. When I give a gift to a friend or relative it comes with no strings, yet I thought: He might have money to buy food if he didn’t smoke. You can argue that $9 or whatever a pack of cigarettes costs won’t buy much, so what the heck, but still. Perception was doing the talking and my wallet stayed shut.

radiowavesThe Saturday before this year’s Oscars an international news source played the same radio segment at least twice: I heard that it sure was going to be cold at the Oscars because a very rare thing happened: It snowed in San Francisco. And here I thought that Hollywood was in LA. Would I cancel a picnic in New York City if I heard an unsavory Boston weather report? Wonder if the person who wrote and/or read this has a map.

There’s an ad on a morning radio show where the owner of the business, an articulate fellow with a pleasant voice, tells you why you should bring your car to his shop for checkups and repairs. I’ve heard it a few times. He gives his phone number-I don’t recognize the area code. But he doesn’t state what town he’s in. I can’t understand why the station’s ad staff doesn’t advise him and let him record his message again. I’ve never heard of his business so doubt it’s a chain.

gastankOn March 4, here was the breaking news report that popped in my email box from a major network: “Dow Tumbles Over 150 Points Amid Rising Oil a day after the markets posted its best one-day rise in three months in the wake of a robust report on jobless claims and falling oil prices.” Hmmm. So what’s going on? Are fuel prices rising or falling? I can tell you what I think is happening if my local gas stations are any proof. And how did that s get into the word market?

The New York Post and LA Times were two of zillions to report this news: “Charlie Sheen to pitch products on Twitter, sets Guinness world record.” In the first place, I can’t imagine recommending to a client that he/she have Charlie Sheen go near their product. But it shows you what I know. According to the LA Times, “Just a day after starting up a Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, Sheen had amassed more than 910,000 followers [sic] the micro-blogging site, landing his user account among the fastest-growing the website has ever had.” I think his followers enjoy watching train wrecks and are not necessarily the folks who will buy Naked Juice smoothie [one of the products he’s promoting with one of his mistresses].

What examples of miscommunication–inadvertent or deliberate–have you observed lately?

miscommunication

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