Communication breakdown

I’ve been recently quite plagued by communication issues. I don’t want to say that it is all the fault of technology but I believe that technology something to do with it. I get the feeling that technology has made it so easy for us to communicate digitally we have perhaps begun to forget how to do it face to face. Of course I come with a few examples and ask you as a reader to suggest if the problem is mine or not.

A while ago I was having an experimental moment in the kitchen and decided to make an aubergine curry of my own invention. Now I will admit that I am normally an initially messy cook but I try to get to that point where I can tidy up while things are simmering however this time throughout the process I made sure I keep the kitchen as clean as I can in the shared house that I live. Curry got done and I even boxed the extra so that anyone wanting to use the pan could. At the same time I was cooking this a fellow housemate made some steak on the hob which spat oil everywhere and when they were done they told me that they would clean the hob after eating. Not having a ‘dining’ room I took my food upstairs and enjoyed my creation in peace. It was mere minutes into my meal that I receive an SMS from another housemate complaining about the oil. Now you know and I know I didn’t make the mess and I’m not sure why they choose me to send the message but it was personalised so they definitely thought it was me. The person who sent me this I actually pay the rent to, not the landlord persay but they run the flat, the bills, everything, I just pay my rent monthly which is all inclusive. My issues with the SMS are simple. This SMS was sent to me while the person was in the same house, downstairs in fact and it makes me wonder why he didn’t come upstairs and ask me face to face? Secondly they assumed it was me. I know what I should and will do next time something like this happens. What I will do is go down and actually talk to them, explain to them face to face that it was not me and then maybe I will get the apology I was after and didn’t get.

There second major example is a bit more difficult to portray to a reader who may know very little or nothing about what I do. I was given a task at work that was started by another developer. Now picking up other people’s work is sort of what I am paid to do. I am paid to provide the best I can given the knowledge I have of the current situation. This situation is a little special because what I picked up on was in a very early state with no real documented guidance as to what was intended. Similar to if it was a house and you had a basic foundation for it but no blue prints and the main architect in on holiday. That’s how this was for me. My job in this situation and sticking with our house building analogy was to contribute heavily to one of the smaller rooms in the house. So being an independent developer I tried to do what I could and changed a few of the original foundations to hopefully make it easier for the next person to pick up (I see this as part of my job). After spending five days in this project the weekend came and I was very happy with what I had done but had a sneaky suspicion that it might all be refused.

Again I realise I’m talking to people who may know nothing about code review but as developers we have the ability to see exactly what another developer did (but not necessarily why) and so when my changes were removed with no real explanation via the digital means that we use I was not surprised but I was slightly offended. I took offence mainly at the lack of explanation. The developer that was on holiday for that week did not explain why he received all of my changes and even when I tried to talk to him about it he claimed there was nothing salvageable and was not even willing to talk about it. This I took rather personally and know I should not of done but sometimes you just can’t help but be involved.

In both the situations above I see a distinct lack of communication by one party and that party using technology to hide behind which then caused the victim (me) a significant bit of anxiety. The question is what can I (or you if you are caught in a similar situation) do about it? My advice is simple, find something that helps you, for me it’s either writing the situation down using free writing where I just write without thinking or talking through the situation with my counsellor or trusted (and uninvolved) friend. Doing this enabled me to place in my mind what I would do should either happen again. My advise is thus.

No matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel talk directly to the person involved and don’t use a digital format to do so. Don’t cause a big fuss, get them on a one to one level and try to explain to them what the problem is. Don’t raise your voice, go prepared with written notes or a speech if it helps you but make your point fully and preferably without interruption. Don’t expect anything back, the person you are talking to may not apologise and if you are expecting them to do so and they don’t you will walk out of the encounter disappointed. Your job in this time is to be listened to, nothing may change off the back of your chat but for me just being able to speak my mind makes me feel better about it.

Once your done with your chat, no matter the outcome walk away from the problem. This in itself can not be a simple task. I have in the past left companies because I was focusing on what could of happened but didn’t. It has taken me many years to get to a point where I can let an issue like this go. Writing about it certainly helps so thank you for reading and allowing me offload a bit.

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