Communication, Information, And Empathy

I think it’s important to chat.

When Dan was running the kitchen the most informative time of day was the pre-lunch smoke break. Something important would be remembered while the conversation was just wandering, responsibilities would be delegated or volunteered for, plans were made. Most of the menu was developed out there in between making fun of passers-by.

It’s easy for a boss to say my door is open, if you see something or have an idea please come to me, you’re the front line I’m counting you etc but making everything a matter of official communication, especially with authority, turns that conversation into a dragon to be slain, a daunting chore that feels better put off.

What’s happening at work right now is people are trying to solve the problem by communicating moreĀ rather than communicating better. Information just gets lobbed around the kitchen on white boards, via email, thru gossip, etc. I’ve learned things that I needed to know by being in the right room at the right time and simply overhearing it.

So I’ve been making more of an effort to chat with people, people who aren’t my friends, and the result is that we become friendly. I’m choosing to listening patiently while people talk about annoying crap so that when they have something important to say they don’t hesitate to say to me.

Information is power and I aspire to empower us all, if we all have the same information, and access to information, if we all trust each other to communicate without checklists and dehumanizing systems then I think we can all flourish and be our best selves.

And I’m not just talking about at work I try to do this in every avenue of life. Communication isn’t about blurting out your feelings as if they’re facts but giving everyone information about how you feel and why.

It’s easy for couples to blather on about the importance of communication and how they can talk about anything but still they often end up lobbing information around, trying to build systems and ‘ground rules’ that take empathy out of the equations, and aiming to sub-communicate things they could say explicitly better.

It’s the difference between saying “I’m jealous because I saw you hanging out with some guys at the bar.” and “I need to work on my jealousy because I noticed myself getting upset when I saw you talking with some guys at the bar”

The first example surreptitiously makes your feelings the listener’s problem, it implies their behavior is the cause of your negative feelings. When really it’s something from your past and you’re the only one involved in the problem.

With that said I also think it’s important to pick up on sub-communications. People are much more comfortable saying how long were you planning on staying? than I’d like my own space back please and thank you. And as empathetic creatures we have the privilege of picking up on that and acknowledging it, not being dicks exploiting the fact that if someone doesn’t say something explicitly we can pretend it doesn’t matter as much.

But I’ve been on that rant before and I’ll spare you.


Singer/songwriter, jerk.

Posted in Pragmatism
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