Give the Gift of Communication

Walking in the Park

Last year when my husband and I really started becoming serious about planning our wedding, we knew the communication would be paramount for success. We both lived in Japan at the time, the wedding would be in the Puget Sound area of Washington State and family and friends would be coming from San Diego, Memphis, and New York, D.C. and beyond. Our wedding, we also quickly realized, was going to defy expectations of what a wedding is typical conceived as being in the average American mind. Our budget with travel to and from Japan simply didn’t allow for the big white wedding.

We literally planned a campaign. It was like a battle plan. We started with our parents and tasked them with easy to communicate messages, which we repeated ad infinitum for months, while asking them to repeat it to their friends and the family members talking to them about us. We laid out the base fundamental concepts we needed to communicate in the wedding invitations. We clarified the messages with siblings and wrote regular propaganda packed emails to the wedding party. Then as time grew closer, we set up a website.

Louvie Tucker at Starbucks in Takasaki Japan

Why did we do all this? Because we were not only bringing together a diverse and potentially difficult group, but we wanted it to be a success. It took ten months of planning and countless hours of writing and talking. It took clarification and a simplification of our vision. We chose people to help us who “got” the vision.

It would have never had worked if we hadn’t had two things. First, we knew,  very clearly, what we wanted, what was important and what wouldn’t matter. We made our requirements simple and were excited about anything else that came together. Secondly, we said it more than once. We repeated the vision until we felt like we were blue in the face. We pointed out the benefits not only to ourselves but to others and we answered questions and objections before they were raised.

If this was a letter to friends and family, I would go on about everything everyone did to help us and thank them, at length. They deserve it. But this is an article about communication. It meant everything to us. When people are stressed, when something as delicate as a wedding and bringing together strangers is at stake, clarity means more than good fuzzy feelings. The morning I left my parents house to meet the wedding party and go out to the location, I taped one last two page printed list to the front door with everything that everyone leaving before me needed to bring. I handed my father and every other member of the direct family a script, detailing not only where they needed to be and what they were doing but where everyone else was. I will not forget the look my father gave me holding the script. He said thank you and I hugged him. Communication can be such a precious gift.

Clarity yanked the stress out of the nuclear zone down into a general tolerance range. People weren’t afraid of offending me. And because the simple basics were known, so many people took initiative and over performed in their own areas.

Wedding Day

My wedding was amazing. There were little issues but nothing that marred the day, even when the site was rained out and we had to move it at the last minute. Everyone is still talking to each other. I’ll be forever grateful to so many people who helped and celebrated. And I’d like to think other people in the family will use the model for future events.

Plan a campaign. Simplify the message until its repeatable. Then repeat and repeat.

When Nice is NOT Nice

Most of us understand that  “no means no” when it comes to our bodies. We’re taught to speak up. However, too many of us do not have the same respect for our time. You’d say no if someone was trying to molest you, right? Or steal your purse? So, why is your time or self respect any different? Just because it’s an intangible doesn’t make it any less valuable. You life is counted in minutes. When someone takes your time and wastes it, they are literally taking portions of your life!

Cat outside the Mosque

No doormat here. Tread at your own risk

Many of us simply don’t say no to these violations that waste our time. They come in all shapes and sizes. The worst of them usually get offered up with a smile and that horrible phrase, “You understand, right?” That’s what I have been told so many times. “Oh, so-and-so is so busy. We very sorry for the miscommunication”, or, “It’s just so confusing these days, getting everything together.” And of course, you’re supposed to smile back and say yes, of course you understand. But why? Why should you just lie down for the muck that’s about to be tracked over you? As soon as you smile back and agree, be prepared to be someone’s well used doormat. And doormats do not get respect or good return on their investments.

Let me illustrate. I responded to a want ad for a job in another city a few years ago. A man from the company called me, and from his conversation, I thought that I was possibly dealing with an intern. They represented themselves as an establish international school online. I knew I was quite qualified. He didn’t have his information ready, so he said he would email me. I let him know that I was several hours away but still happy to accommodate. He told me to arrive on a particular afternoon. That morning, as I left for the interview, I messaged and called the front desk, his personal number and his desk number to let them know I was coming.

He did not see me, though he did see someone else who arrived. A woman who appeared to be acting as an assistant pulled the decision out of thin air. Then, after leaving me waiting for 45 minutes, she sat down and talked to me for five minutes. I realized as I said goodbye that she considered that my interview. I drove home, trying to be generous, but in many ways, simply regretting that I had given the guy the benefit of the doubt and shown up. Especially now that I had learned a few things, such as the job was a 24/7 position, that the company was incredibly unorganized and that no one I met had been giving me straight answers.

When the assistant called back two days later, asking if I couldn’t just stop by for another interview. I let her know it was not possible for me to drive all the way over again. “I can understand if it is easier for you to work with someone locally,” I told her. I did not apologize. “I also have a few questions about what the position actually entails and the posted salary.” She became flustered and got off the phone.

I keep tabs on the industry, since I still have ties to it and funny enough, that school has to advertise regularly for new instructors.

Hopefully, I’m a little smarter next time someone asks for an interview. I’ll expect them to be as on top of their game as I am. And hopefully, someone learns a little from my lesson. The pay, when I crunched the numbers, was going to work out to be around 2.78 an hour, since I would be on call 24/7, on site and on duty. How they treat you at the start, is likely the best they’ll ever treat you.

No thank you. I’d be better off in my local library learning a new skill than working for that wage. There’s definitely no respect there. I wanted to be ‘nice’ and give the the ‘benefit of the doubt’ but there is a price tag to ‘nice’, especially when others are assuming you’re going to be ‘nice’.

I’d rather be ‘professional’, ‘dependable’, ‘forward thinking’, and ‘efficient’ than ‘nice’. It will take me farther and ultimately, take the people I partner with farther. I’ll be helpful, open to opportunity, willing to mentor, and ‘passing it on’ but I’m done with being ‘nice’.