Have you ever had a flight delayed and had no idea when you would leave?
Have you ever felt the slow, grueling wait of sitting on a subway platform with no clue when the next train will arrive?
Have you ever been in the doctor’s office with no indication of when you’ll be called?
The problem with these situations isn’t the wait; it’s the uncertainty.
Without information, we get anxious, restless, and frustrated as we imagine that no one cares about our discomfort. No one is telling us what’s going on or trying to fix our problem.
This type of communication black hole is typical when dealing with transportation and health care, but it is equally prevalent in our daily lives.
If we have an argument with someone and don’t let them know that things are okay now, they assume the worst and might take action that reignites the argument.
Or if we don’t check in with a teacher or student regularly, they might feel like we don’t care about them or their work. This obviously might not be true, but without information, we often tend to assume the worst.
People can handle disappointments, delays, and changes when they know what’s going on and feel like they’re in the loop.
We often don’t communicate in these situations because we don’t want to deliver bad news. But it’s better that we let the other person know what’s going on rather than them imagining that we don’t care or that we’re ignoring them. And when the other person finally hears the news, they will be even more disappointed and upset because we didn’t let them know ahead of time.
Sometimes we don’t get in touch when a project or assignment is delayed because we don’t want to feel like we’re making excuses. But that’s better than someone making plans around the original schedule and being unpleasantly surprised when the deadline passes with no results.
Apparently many Kickstarter projects fall behind schedule, but backers don’t worry if the project leaders stay in touch with regular updates. It’s only when we don’t hear anything that we assume someone is scamming or ignoring us.
(That being said, we are working hard to make sure that our Kickstarter project is completed on schedule this summer. 😄)
Here are a few suggestions for avoiding these problems:
1. Regularly update anyone who is expecting significant deliverables from you. I’m guilty of not wanting to do this because I tell myself, “It’ll take too much time,” or “I don’t know what to say.” All we need to do is shoot a quick email or text to that person saying, “Just wanted to let you know that I’m working on the project and we’re on schedule,” or “It looks like the project is taking a little longer than expected, and here are the action steps I’m taking to make sure you still get the outcome you want.”
2. Never delay gratitude. My business partner KBJ shared this advice with me, and it has been incredibly important to me over the years. Whenever someone does something nice for us, immediately thanking them via phone, text, email, or written thank you card is critical. The person will often remember and appreciate your gratitude much more than anything you could physically give them in return.
3. Set aside 15 minutes per day for updates and thank you notes. If it feels like communicating is too time consuming, we won’t do it. When I give myself 15 minutes per day to send updates and thank you notes, it helps me overcome the mental block of “it’ll take too much time.”
Are there other examples where lack of communication has created problems or frustrations in your life? Do you have any other tips for how to avoid communication problems? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!