Service of Clumsy Communication
May 7th, 2015
Categories: Communications, Elephant in the Room, Errors in Judgment, Uncategorized
The three people who made these errors in judgment didn’t mean to offend—I’m pretty sure. All these examples involve volunteers.
A friend whose career is skyrocketing is counseling a fledgling group in her field pro bono. Several times one of the principals of this company has called and asked her if she can do something for them on such and such a date and when she says, “Yes,” the person replies, “Good. I’ve asked five other people before you so I’ll get back if none of them accept.” She is secure in her talent but found the communication insulting and irritating enough to mention. We now laugh because the situation has happened a few times since we first spoke about it and after the last, she told her contact that she’s done helping them.
Then I heard about an organization’s committee co-chair who was looking for panelists among winners of a grant. She approached my friend, a winner, the day before the event, to see if she could participate. My friend knew she was clearly a last choice and said “no.” From the start the co-chair should have asked all the winners to attend—there weren’t that many–see who could come and then select her panel and moderator. The more the merrier: Their mingling before and after the formal discussion would have benefited the other guests who were attending to learn more about the grant.
I often identify the elephant in the room which is unusual these days–has always been in fact–and many don’t know what to make of it. If I’m on a board or a committee, I feel it is my responsibility to suggest a solution when most don’t dare recognize the problem. I know when and how to be deferential and polite and to carefully word what I write or say whether I’m suggesting a different approach or pointing out an error.
I was taken aback when a person, in front of a third person, asked me recently to first show her correspondence I was going to send about a mistake someone had made. She said she feared I’d be too harsh. [Common sense taught me eons ago to be gentle when I want something/or a correction. It works.] This was not a client—I don’t make a move without client approval on copy and for decades my clients have trusted me to write appropriately worded missives. I was distressed that this person didn’t trust my ability to distinguish between offline private chatter and communicating with others. I sent the note, copying only those affected by the error—not this person [who was only peripherally involved]. The recipient was extremely apologetic as she realized she’d made a mistake—which happens. She immediately fixed what she could. As for my relationship with the distrusting person, my mother used to advise, “Bury the bone but remember where you buried it.” I’ll give it a try once again.
What causes some to take down others unnecessarily? Is it thoughtlessness? A feeling of power? A case of foot in mouth disease? A misunderstanding of the dynamic in a volunteer relationship? Have you been the target of such insensitivity? Then do you forgive–how many times–or walk away?