Mistakes and Miscommunication

Have you noticed an increase in mistakes being made by service staff? How about misinformation, inaccurate assumptions, and errors in communication of information? I have noticed all of these and attribute them to our current challenges due to the pandemic. While I do not want to “blame” things on the pandemic just because it is our reality, I do believe our current state of affairs caused by the pandemic results in some particular problems. My purpose in bringing this into our awareness is so that we will all be more careful, kind, and diligent.

Mike and I are involved in a transaction that has resulted in this subject being heavy on my mind. Much of today I have been emailing and on the phone about an aspect of this transaction, to find out a few minutes ago that what I was communicating in good faith to several other people was inaccurate. This knowledge comes on the heels of several examples recently of mistakes made by customer service staff. Knowing that I am not error free, that I too make mistakes, and probably more than I am aware of, I decided to call into our collective awareness the fact that we all need to be more careful. We need to be more careful in several ways. One of these relates to making assumptions.

Texting has its place, but it is one reason we do not always communicate clearly and completely.

The issue of assumptions is a prickly one for me, and that is not a new phenonium due to the pandemic. I have long abhorred assumptions, especially assumptions that cannot be proven, that are just someone’s opinion. If an assumption is stated as such, that is different, but too often the assumption is stated as a fact, and often as an accusation.  Once an assumption is communicated as a fact and spreads, it has a life of its own. We need to be more careful than to spread assumptions that are nothing more than someone’s opinion.

Being distracted is one reason communication isn’t clear.

Do you ever think about how much time is wasted by miscommunication? Pay attention to this and you will be amazed. If time is a finite resource, and it is, why would we want to waste it by miscommunicating? Once we have discovered that something has been communicated that isn’t true, and we need to let others know of the mistake, we have spent so much time that could have been better spent. Worse, if the mistake isn’t corrected, then someone else has incorrect information and may be making decisions with that misinformation. So, what should we do about this?

Clear, concise, and full of meaning.

We should be clear and concise in what we communicate to others. We should match the words we use with our delivery, making sure that we are using the appropriate amount of emotion. We have all heard the example, “No, I’m not mad!!” There is a disconnect between the words used and the emotion present in this message. When there is a disconnect between what we say and what we do, such as there clearly is in this example, people judge what we are really saying by our actions, not the words we use, such as the emotion in this sentence that reflects we are indeed mad. Although this particular example may not be common, this type of miscommunication is all too common, unfortunately.

Back to mistakes being made by service staff. This results in errors in purchases, delivery, and other aspects of buying and selling. This often results in do overs.  One reason for these problems is that some service staff are new, and probably not well trained due to less staff in general in many businesses. Surely you have noticed that there are few cashiers in stores these days, which means they are being expected to know more about more merchandise. Also, when you call a business lately, the time on hold to talk to a live person is excessive, much more so than in “normal” times. Both the customer and the service staff need to slow down and pay more attention to the transaction, so less mistakes are made, less do overs are needed, and all of us are not wasting valuable time. We need to pay attention to our receipts so we can identify errors. We also need to allow more time for everything, since many things take more time. We need to insulate our hot buttons, so that our frustrations do not spill over into our interactions with others. We should remember that what happens is often less important than our response. Let’s stay friendly and professional.

These are a few thoughts about how we best navigate these times. These are indeed unusual times. Things will improve, although it may take months for that to happen. In the meantime, let’s all show more grace to each other, and to ourselves.    

About Patti Fralix

Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life, and family through Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching in three specialty areas: Leadership, Managing Differences, and Customer Service. Her leadership firm, The Fralix Group, Inc., has been helping clients achieve practical and tangible results for twenty-two years.
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