We're all moving too fast.
Texts are flung out on the fly.
Emails are all too frequently half-baked or marked by massive misspellings.
Conversations are rushed or rudely interrupted by a phone call.
There's no doubt that we are operating in an increasingly communication-challenged environment...and we're bound to fall into avoidable blunders.
So how about you?
What has been your biggest communications gaffe and how did you fix it?
Bonus: The best answer will receive a free ticket to GovLoop and Young Government Leader's NextGen+ event on December 6, 2012.
Deadline is Friday, Nov. 16. Share yours or +1 your favorite.
You may submit an anonymous response to email@example.com.
P.S. I will also be leading a workshop at this event called "Become a Brilliant Communicator." We'll explore strategies for methodically moving through your daily communications minefield and explore common scenarios that can trip you up.
Communication gaffe? How about feeling like you had to learn an entirely new language!
In October of last year, I transitioned from the uber-creative media and marketing industry where iced lattes and the latest documentary were often our points of conversation to the laced-up and procedure-driven government contracting world. Aside from an 8-hour training before my new co-worker hopped on a plane and moved back to California...I was left in the trenches taking grenades...or googling acronyms if I pause the drama for a second.
Early on in one of our government contracts, we were called to create a website from scratch. I was determined to bring a fresh perspective to the old school status quo, and it appeared that everyone was on board. As we were putting the final touches on the wireframe for the site, we got to the "content" part of the website, and amidst our discussions, I insisted that "original content" was crucial for high-ranking SEO.
Oh boy, talk about a moment where "creative" jargon versus "academic" jargon collide.
Our SMEs were horrified at the idea of creating all new content within a three week period for government website. How dare I suggest that...didn't I know the research and hours that would go into that?
But alas, our President, who had her foot both in the academic world being a former professor, and in the real world - came to the rescue and explained that "original" content simply meant putting a fresh spin on what's already out there. After a few conference calls and taking the initiative to write some of the content myself as an example - all was forgiven.
These days, I choose my words more carefully than ever. Between talking to academic SMEs, government officials, my military fiancé, and deciphering my own stream of thought - I'd say I've become much more fluent in languages that were once quite foreign to me.
Hope to get the chance to attend the 12/6 event!
Kathy Rocha, Communications Manager
The Federal Leadership Institute
You're a *great* writer, Kathy. That was an entertaining, excellent example.
Words are everything.
My biggest IT goof took place because of the fact that the REPLY and REPLY ALL buttons are too darned close together on emails. When I was Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and was about to be reassigned, the individual who was replacing me was looped in on emails relating to people who were vying for assignments to jobs at the consulate, especially the deputy position. For whatever reason, she was negative about every candidate, including a couple who were clearly outstanding. Now, she was, I learned later, just thinking out loud via email so to speak, but, it was beginning to grate on my nerves. After a series of several of her negative comments, I let loose with a tirade that was intended for the guy who was handling assignments - and, I'm afraid I made a couple of rather unflattering comments about my designated successor. Problem was, instead of hitting REPLY, I hit REPLY ALL and my comments wound up in her inbox. Needless to say, when I noticed this the next day, I was mortified. Not that I didn't mean what I said; I just hadn't meant for it to be said TO her. I waited a couple of days, and then sent her a direct email, explaining what was going through my mind at the time, apologizing for my rudeness, but, also pointing out that her constant negative assessments were clogging up the assignment process. Thankfully, she was an understanding person who also knew the pressure I was under, so I was forgiven. We actually became good friends after that, and I learned to exercise extreme caution when sending emails from that point on.
Seems like a lot of these stories have silver linings. I just got a similar one in my inbox...not only was the person forgiven, but they (like you) had a better relationship because of their honest.
...which brings up a key question: Why don't we default to honesty? Why do people have to find out how we really feel when we accidentally hit "Reply All"?
It seems like we stand to be the biggest beneficiaries of that honesty as we "get it off our chest" or reveal the other person's blind spots. Either way, it's far more unlikely that we'd see change if we don't let others know that what they're doing is troublesome...and they can't do anything about it if they don't know! :-)
I am fascinated by this phenomena...
I would say my biggest communication problem was not getting anything meant for me -- people were constantly submitting things to my sibling instead of me, because my sibling works at the same place but is in no way remotely attached to my section. I solved it the old-fashioned way -- constant pestering until they were so sick of hearing from me, they took the time to double check who they addressed things to.
"One of my biggest gaffes," as there has been plenty, came when I was forwarding an email to a friend seeking advice and venting about what I felt was laziness on the part of someone who had replaced me in a position I once held. I really opened up a tirade about how lazy the guy must be; how inconsiderate of him to take the easy way out; I stated such things as, "who does he think I am his "gofer"; "I gave him step-by-step instructions that even a child could understand"; "what does he want me to do, hold his hand while he uses the bathroom", "etc., etc." Imagine my surprise when I received a response from him stating, "I'm sorry, I didn't know I was asking for much, didn't mean to be a burden to you." YIKES! "Remove Foot From Mouth", I had inadvertently hit the "Reply All" button and sent my tirade to him AND my friend. Needless to say, I felt foolish, embarrassed, and slightly angry at myself for making such a blunder. I politely sent a response back to him stating, "Sorry that you received this email, I sent out of frustration, I was only seeking advice on how to take the "training-wheels" off to allow you to grow by finding your own answers." He said he accepted my apology and said he would not trouble me anymore with questions concerning the job. Since then, I have made it a practice to "check and re-check" who I am sending emails, texts, etc. to..."LESSON LEARNED!"
Shared with me by email:
My worst communication error was during my first job out of college. I was 22 and had a boss that was rude and demeaning and enjoyed hiring young girls that were especially vulnerable to this type of bullying. My colleague and I were e-mailing back and forth after an especially bad morning, and in response to a rude e-mail, and I used a word that rhymes with witch to describe her. I sent it and realized I had accidentally hit reply all to the rude e-mail and e-mailed my comment to my boss! She saw it and I spoke to her and apologized for how unprofessional that was and explained how we were feeling. It actually ended up being a positive. She was a little nicer after that and didn't fire me on the spot, which is what I thought she would do.
Another one I received by email:
The monumental mistake I made was when I emailed a prospect what I meant to email my partner who had the same name – lets say “Dan.” The email I wrote went something like this: “Great thanks for supporting our efforts with Company X- they are certainly a great prospect and I think your case was accepted and understood by Dan as to why they should support us.”
Included on the email were all the other members of my team and of course the “Other” Dan. I was mortified, of course he would know he was a prospect but to label him to his face as such is really rather bad taste – so I quickly sent an email back to all noting: “Dan, I apologize this was sent to the wrong “Dan” but of course your efforts in supporting our potential teaming are greatly appreciated too.”
I never heard back from him and I learned a super valuable lesson! Always double check your to addresses when they auto-populate, and even in your internal communications, you don’t need to be so crass and aggressive in your pursuit---at least with words.
Who won? We're eager to find out ;)