Communication – a lesson I learned in Starbucks of all places

Sitting I Starbucks a Saturday or so ago having a quiet coffee and reading the paper. It was the last place I was expecting to learn this lesson. A group of 6 young kids (ages ranging from about 4 to 6) and their mothers came in to the store, pushing and shoving and generally having fun as kids do. The striking thing about this group though is that every single person had a hearing impairment including the adults.

The thing that struck me was that if they wanted to “talk” to someone they had to establish eye contact. Because of this everyone paid attention to each other and the conversations were clear and concise. There were no misunderstandings in regard to what was expected, what each of them wanted or indeed how they felt.

In this day and age where communication is becoming more and more remote with less and less face to face interaction it made me sit up and take notice. I’ve lost count of the times over the last 6 months where email or IM communications have spiralled out of control over a subject or situation that could have, should have and ultimately were resolved by having a 5 minute face to face conversation.

There is a clarity of purpose and intent that can be conveyed in a look or the tone of the voice that is absent in written material. Without this the effort needed to gain the same clarity goes up exponentially with the complexity of the subject.

So next time you find yourself on your third email explanation of something “simple” maybe it’s time to pick up the phone, or better yet get up and go talk to them?