August 14, 2019|

Tommy, Can You Hear Me?

If you are as old as I am you remember the 1975 rock opera Tommy, based on an album by the Who of the same name. It is the story of a “deaf, dumb and blind kid” who becomes a “pinball wizard.” How does he do it? He plays by “sense of smell.”

How does Tommy receive information? How does he communicate? According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition, communication requires an exchange of information. So what is my point here? Exchange is fundamental to communication. Sending an email or text or private social media message is not communicating unless it is received.

I get peevish when someone asks me why I have not done the thing they requested since they sent me a message about it hours ago. Because I, like all of you, am in a customer service business*, I do not answer honestly and say “Because you failed to communicate with me.”

We have so many means of communication now, but we are rapidly losing the art of communication. In the Navy, we were trained that all orders must be repeated back to the person issuing the order. That way both parties have confirmed the order was property received. When driving a submerged submarine, the accuracy of communication is as important as speed.

The key to communication is not in the sending, it is in making sure the message is received and understood. Messages frequently get lost in the speed of our methods of communication. We check it off our list because we sent someone else an email, text, voice mail or instant message. I know people who intentionally call and leave voice mail before or after normal hours so they can say they called without actually speaking to the person. That, dear readers, is not communicating.

The next time you send a hurried email or thumb type a text, make sure you take time to confirm the message is received and the person on the other end understands what you want!

*If you do not think you are in a customer service business, you just do not know your customer.

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