Say What?

What is in a word? How do we express a message? The message that is sent usually is different to the receiver than we think.

I recognize it and have spent years crafting away around it, a lifetime actually. My greatest frustrations drive from not being able to communicate a message the way I intend it. It is a hurdle that has challenged me everyday of my life for as far back as I can remember, which contains a great deal of my days and moments in high level detail of my senses.

I studied Communications and Social Sciences at the University of Washington. I studied Cultural Anthropology in Africa. I spent most of the last 10 years working for a multinational corporation as a Divisional Human Resources representative and Corporate Liaison responsible to communicate messages to and from the employee population of ~1100 through the Regional and Divisional Officers to and from Corporate. It was one of my responsibilities to determine which messages needed to get to which people in which offices and how to convey those messages. I had to determine when to combine and when to separate memorandums. I facilitated timelines for additional information seeking, discussions and implementation. This was a very structured world that allowed me to compartmentalize everything and put everything I needed to understand on a chart, graph or table. I became highly effective at delivering the messages that were intended both by the company and me. I built strategies to understand the messages that came to me, highlight key details and communicate them back. If I disagreed with a message or the intent of the message, it was essential that I communicate it as the company wanted it received to not influence the the response while keeping the message separate from me.

This resulted in very long emails from me. Each word, sentence, paragraph and section completed with an appropriate font, accent, style, size and color to convey the message that I intended. I am an observer and data collector. I build my understandings with pictures words and charts so that every detail is broken down into its components. My subject line needed to catch the attention of the audience that needed it. Inside, it could be brief, it that was best for the message, or more often, it had sections. I would either bold a sentence or add a summary. I would design and sculpt away. I had legal obligations, obligations to policy practice and intent. I had to know that the message would communicate enough to people who were only interested in the first sentence and enough to people who were very technical and cared about greater detail than I did. It had to be clear enough to not get 100 responses back seeking clarification, really I was disappointed if there were more than two, unless it was more high level information than I wanted to convey to the general population of recipients. It also resulted in my entire communication system to revolve around structured details carefully extracted and placed in a design of my choosing.

It kills me when I catch a typo in anything that is not instant message. If I can correct it, I really should. Part of my message will be lost or distorted if there isn’t a comma there. Someone will notice it and be distracted. They will then lose focus on the message and a detail will be overlooked or missed. I look to Elsa in instant message as I cannot change it and I try to let it go because I understand that people are more annoyed and distracted by a line that says (*the) instead of reading a sentence that says teh. Teh is a word that my hands refuse to type differently unless I really pay attention.

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