After much of the East Coast experienced a 5.8 earthquake earlier this week, we must ask the question: Has the world come to an end or was it just another August news day on the East Coast? It is typical that if anything happens in New York or Washington, DC that of course it is the number one story of the day for the rest of the country, if not the world! We all know that ESPN stands for East Coast Sports Programming Network don’t we? I know that the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are good teams that have paid fortunes for their players but last time I checked there were a few other good teams out there to watch as well. There is life west of the Potomac and Hudson Rivers.
This is not a tirade on two of my favorite cities but it does put everything into perspective – One Man’s Record Earthquake Is Another Man’s Minor Shake! As we speak, most Californians are making fun of the concept that a 5.8 earthquake can make such news since they eat breakfast practically every morning with more powerful shakes than that episode originating from Central Virginia.
Be it in typical office communication or in a marriage or during a job interview, it is quite obvious by what has occurred this past week that sometime descriptions of what has taken place might just not be as accurate or descriptive as you might want it to be. Those who do international travel know the difficulty in communicating with natives, even if you know the language – but sometimes it is even more difficult communicating when you are both speaking the same language (or at least we think we are speaking the same language).
Most failures in communication occur when individuals are not as clear as they can be when describing a fact. It is also important to recognize that language and certain meanings have changed over the years and now can be construed much differently. A great example was describing to my adult son of a funeral that I had attended and stating that the person who died was a partner of a friend. His response was “I thought he was married?” I guess I should have been more specific in stating “business partner” but of course he was not as accurate as he could have been either because by now asking “I thought he was married?” does not take into account numerous states that allow same sex marriages.
Language and communication are evolving matters and something we all need to pay attention to on an on-going basis. What might have been a perfectly acceptable phrase a decade ago might now be insensitive. And of course the context of everything said does matter. The receivers of communication can’t always determine the intent of what is being said so a relationship can be strained and wars can be started over a comment that was never intended to insult or criticize.
Perspective and intentions do matter, but since we cannot look into your hearts and minds we receivers of communication must always extrapolate what you really wanted to say or write. Because communication in today’s world is so instantaneous and can be so damaging across varied and immediate formats, it is imperative for all who communicate verbally or in written form to think twice before you speak or proof-read that e-mail or text one more time before you hit the send button.
And to those on the East Coast, I know that it was a frightening experience, I know that there is damage to homes and we certainly empathize with those who need to repair their residences, and that the Washington Monument now has a crack or two, but it is difficult to account for such a high alert attitude and non-stop nationwide coverage from those who close offices and head for the hills when snow is predicted by the weather man during typical winter months. Remember – perspective, intent and intensity are always important in any communication and in any relationship.
Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career. He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986. He currently is between positions and has written more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.
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