Thursday, June 17, 2010

How NOT to Communicate

Heather, a good friend of mine, just had the oddest experience -- and there are some lessons on communication in it for us all.

Heather founded a sort of meditation and psychic development group, which she ran for many years. She gave up running it some years ago when she had her first child, and almost immediately realized that she didn't even have the time or attention to attend. Everyone wished her well, and she remained on good terms with the group, even visiting occasionally to share some new discovery she'd made.

The group recently decided to make a big push for a day-long alumni gathering, which was also envisioned as a sort of outreach for new members.  They sent a mass email to everyone on their mailing list, which included both past and potential members, and then followed it up with a posting on Facebook, again inviting everyone with whom the group was 'friends', and later, several follow up emails.

Heather saw the group email, and while she was supportive, decided it wasn't all that important for her to go, as her now 10 year old son had a baseball game that day. To be honest, her feelings were a bit hurt that she hadn't been asked to help plan the day, or even a part of it.

A few days before the event, she began to get phone calls from current group members, including the person now running the group. "Are you coming?", they all began, and continued on the themes of 'it's going to be amazing', as well as 'we love you, we miss you, and we want you here'.

Heather calmly explained the situation, including her scheduling and emotional conflicts. When she spoke about her feelings, the group leader said, "But I did contact you -- I sent you a message on Facebook!"  Heather checked, and sure enough, there was a message asking for her participation. It was cleverly entitled, "Psychic community gathering -- my angel wants to talk to your angel!", sent after the announcement of the event. Of course we all know that it's normal to schedule and begin promoting events long before you plan their details. But Heather assumed that the 'my angel' message was another Facebook group event invitation, of which she gets 2 or 3 a day, and ignored it. 

The moral of the story here is:

Do NOT rely on any one method of communication to reach someone! 

In these times of communication overload, when we are all bombarded by email, voice mail, and text messages, not to mention Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, yahoogroups, various chats and other services too numerous to mention, it's important to either
  • Find out what mode of communication works best for each person with whom you communicate, or 
  • Use several modes of communication in parallel, especially if it's important
Further, writing a personal message is NOT like writing a headline. In a headline, you are aiming to intrigue. In a personal message, it's more important to be direct. To that end:
  •  Make sure your subject line is specific, to the point and accurate, lest it be misinterpreted. 
  •  If your message is personal, the title should indicate it's a personal message, especially if you are sending it on one of the big services. 
If you don't receive a timely response, follow up on your first communications with a second round, again in a simultaneous manner with a specific, and clear subject that this time shows some urgency. This time, use all possible methods, and use the telephone, if possible. Many people will understand the urgency of a telephone call. 

(For a discussion of how all this information overload is affecting us, please see this.)

In the end, the onslaught of phone calls, along with the discussions that resulted from them, ironed out all difficulties. Heather was happy to let her husband take their son to his game, so that she could present a new technique at the gathering. 

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