Something I have noticed for many years is that when people talk to each other they don't often actually listen to what the other person is saying. What are we doing, when we should be listening attentively to what is being said by someone else? We might be formulating a reply to what we think the other person said last, we might be wondering what the hell the person is talking about, or we might be trying to figure out how we can extract ourselves from the conversation as quickly as possible.
What is the result of our inattentiveness?
Misunderstanding. Confusion. Sometimes the results have little consequence, like when your wife asks you if you want tea or coffee, you ask for beer instead, and she brings you lemonade. If you're like me, you will probably drink what you get and be thankful that you didn't have to get up and pour a drink yourself. I think that's the way most men would react. Women might take something like this a little more personally; never having been a woman, I can't rightly say. Wait... I may never have been a woman, but I have lived with and been married to several -- I think I can safely say that women would be more likely to consider oversights like this as personal affronts, and might even take the time and energy to point out in great detail what the underlying meaning might be. Just guessing. Besides, this is another issue entirely and beyond the scope of this post.
When conversations take place about business or policy or something that can affect real life situations in significant and perhaps even deleterious ways, any misunderstandings that arise can cause serious harm. Still, I notice that people often don't listen. And even if instructions are written out in a letter or in an email, people just pick up some of the points and ignore or don't even notice others.
In business, this can be very frustrating.
In managing my business affairs, I necessarily have a lot of conversations and write a lot of emails. If I know exactly what I want, I take pains to be as clear as possible so there won't be any confusion. Naturally, if I want some original input or suggestions, I will express that wish.
What I find is that whether I am explicit or vague, some people simply don't listen, regardless of my intent. If I am explicit in expressing what I want, suggestions might be made that make me wonder if the other person was in the same room when I was speaking, or whether they read my letter or email at all. If I am deliberately vague so as to encourage original thinking, I will get questions about how the issue should best be dealt with. This is all infuriating to me, because there is so much time being wasted, both mine and the other person's.
Am I alone in experiencing this problem? Could it be that I communicate unknowingly in Klingon? Several times in the past week I have nearly ripped out some of my few remaining hairs because it was evident to me that someone had made little attempt to do what I had asked. Is it a bigger problem than mere communication failure? If so, what?