Archives for problems

When Communication Drives You Crazy

Help Point by Mark Hillary from Flickr

Help Point by Mark Hillary from Flickr

My brother-in-law in Kentucky sent an email out last week to his immediate and some extended family regarding referred methods of keeping in touch.


It spurred some very interesting responses and some very intriguing conversation between my husband and I.


I know I have my own “rules” about how I think its best for people to contact me. I try my best to explain them to others so that they can accommodate me, and I ask them how they prefer to be contacted. However, there are sometimes people that just seem to refuse to indulge my preferences, and furthermore, those that insist that their preferred form of communication is better than my preferred form of communication, which can be so frustrating.


I really want your opinion on this scenario:


As a result of my outreach and posting on LinkedIn groups, I get a lot of invitations from people I do not know, which to me is evidence that my content is engaging and that my profile is inviting. However, I explain to them that before we connect, I would like to get better acquainted and give them my CELL PHONE number to give me a call so that we can schedule something. For me, extending my personal cell phone number (which is my only number) is a way of telling them that connecting with them is important to me, because it is a number I do not make public and because it is the device that I respond to with the most urgency (however I do not answer it when I am with clients, unless it is my husband or babysitter.) Most people, I am finding, choose instead to give me their number or their availability in response via LinkedIn messages. The problem with this is that now their response has lost urgency, as has the scheduling of their meeting, because I get the notification via e-mail, which is a non-urgent form of communication. Furthermore, in order to resist any “time sucking” effects that social media can have, I regiment my time, setting designated times to post group messages, respond to network status updates, and reply to messages and invitations. I perform research for clients or business development on an as needed basis. I am a reasonable person who is happy most of the time to extend some flexibility, so I had made some exceptions, logging in to LinkedIn at undesignated times to respond to these individuals and schedule a time to talk. Unfortunately, I AM NOT STRONG ENOUGH to resist the distractions that abound on these social media sites (I try to do the same for Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+.) I know I am not the only one with limited time to spend on social media; however, if you could see how my blocks of time depend windows carefully planned and vigilantly protected around my kids’ schedules (as most know, I work from home and take care of them – both full-time jobs.) You can probably see how problematic it is to waste ANY time.  If I waste any time, something else has to suffer, and I cannot let it be my clients. So, it may be inflexible, but I went back to regimenting my time and decided to make repeated requests of these individuals to move our scheduling conversations OFF social media to the phone, or e-mail if need be. One individual recently never acknowledged, let alone obliged, my request, so I thought I would explain my regimenting. Still, he insisted on giving me his availability via LinkedIn message. That particular day, even if I had chosen to make an exception, I was out of the office all day for personal business (it was my mom’s birthday.) So, his message went unanswered (as I had explained that it might unless we could schedule via phone or e-mail.) He sent me a message that read as follows:


“Karen, I am withdrawing my invite this has gone on since Aug 27. I respect your time but you must respect mine.”


Who is disrespecting whom here? I wanted to make connecting a priority, which is why I gave him my direct number and urged him to call me.


I know I will hear from some LinkedIn and social media evangelists who think that LinkedIn invitations and messages should be a priority, but let’s get real: EVERYTHING can’t be a priority. If you want to be a priority, use my phone number. If I gave it to you, it means you are a priority. If you tell me that you are best at responding via e-mail and that happens to be an appropriate venue for our exchange, I’ll be happy to accommodate you.


So, what is appropriate? Does each person decide for himself or herself? I know I have my own ideas, but a lot of them were inspired by efficiency experts who I have studied, read and followed on behalf of my clients who also have to make the most of their time while accommodating the communication preferences of their audience.


I hope this post elicits a LOT of responses, because I am hungry for feedback!


Here is a summation of communication media and what I have come to determine as the best practices of using each:


Email – a non-urgent form of communication. It is best for things that have to be documented and referred to on a future or ongoing basis, such as instructions or directions. Can also be good for communications sent outside of normal business hours. Efficiency experts warn of the time abyss of e-mail and recommend only checking this 5 times per day.


Text message– immediate/urgent, short. Best for sharing critical details, scheduling meetings, short sentiments. IT is not a good forum for debate, argument or describing complicated concepts


Phone – Personal, implies desire to connect on a “human” level, good for leaving an explanation of moderate length or when something needs to be expressed with inflection and sincerity. It is critical any time a decision has to be made that requires much consideration of both or all parties. My biggest complaint is when people ask you to call them back at a number different from the one that they called from and they say it fast. I recommend that if that is necessary, attempt to text or email the number as well, and tell the recipient that you are doing so. In the days of smart phones, when people check their voice mail from anywhere, including while driving (not condoned,) who has a pen handy to take down a number? How many would rather just click on the number to call the person back?


Social Media – Great for initiating conversations or instant messaging when others are on concurrently. For any of the above, move it off social media.


Snail Mail – If it isn’t a bill, it better be a thank you, an invitation, a greeting card, or an announcement.


Web conference/webinar – If I need to provide an introduction or more in depth instruction on a program, a service, a product, a methodology, a workflow, etc. screen sharing is an incredible asset, and being able to benefit from others’ questions and comments can be invaluable to reinforcement in learning.

To intervene or not to intervene

In my latest vlog, I divulged that I believe connectedness is why we are here. When I am suffering, however, I can tend to disconnect when I need connectedness the most.

Help Point by Mark Hillary from Flickr

Help Point by Mark Hillary from Flickr

In years past I have let readers in on how difficult this coming season is for me. My husband will be gone from sun up to midnight, often longer. We may see each other in passing for 10-15 minutes to exchange pertinent information, or we may go days without seeing each other. This particular season is already proving to be challenging; the girls and I have already come down with our first colds. What makes this year particularly tough is the impending one year anniversary of my sister-in-laws passing, as I recall the difficulties of last year, trying desperately in vain to save her.

All of this has made me think about how connectedness actually is supposed to manifest when our fellow human beings suffer. What do you do when you know somebody’s having a rough time and you have the ability to help them but they didn’t ask you for help? Do you intervene?

Do you let them figure it out by themselves?

Clearly if they wanted your help they would’ve asked for it right?

We all know that there have been times that we have needed someone’s help, yet we did not ask for it. We might’ve known that, while this person could help, they were clearly in the middle of dealing with their own issues. Maybe it was just too personal of a problem to divulge. Probably for most of us, we feared that we might change someone’s mind about us by sharing that we have this problem. So, people, like you and I, do not always reach out for help, even when they (we) know they (we) need it and want it.

On the other hand, there have been times when I have regretted sharing my problems, mostly because of all of the unsolicited advice. Unsolicited advice is one thing, but how many people give you advice without knowing the whole situation? And are they actually experts? Have they done any better for themselves?

In light of this, if you are a doctor and someone you love has not been taking care of themselves and have been putting themselves in serious risk, do you advise them?

If you are a mechanic and you know that someone Has been ripped off by their regular mechanic, do you speak up?

If you are a drug counselor and  you recognize signs of drug use in your friend’s child, do you tell them? What about if you are a law enforcement officer?

If you are the expert, are you the right expert to help them or is it better to refer them to someone who doesn’t have as high a stake in their success coming out of this problem?

What if you are not the expert, but you know a really great expert? Does that make it easier to intervene?  And how do you go about confronting someone you love about a problem that you can clearly see, but they have not acknowledged to you yet? Do you try to engage other people in the confrontation? You risk that your loved one will feel judged and perhaps ambushed or betrayed.


These are touchy subjects, right?

I have grappled with these decisions so many times throughout my life. I have different decisions in different situations and have regretted almost all of them, so I do not claim to have the right answer here. I would like to share an approach that I have found to work recently, and one I wish I had tried in the past when other approaches backfired or left me with regrets, as in the case of my sister-in-law.

DISCLAIMER: this is not backfire-proof AND I would like to know how you have handled it with your loved one, good or bad, or how it was handled with you in a way that was effective and appreciated.


  1. Schedule one-on-one, face-to-face time.

– This is NOT always easy or possible, and sometimes a problem is urgent and cannot wait until these conditions are possible.

  1. Open up the conversation by leveling the playing field.

– Divulge something personal about yourself, not to compete with them and their issue, but that would be hard to admit and for which it was difficult to accept help.

  1. Come from a place of compassion, not judgement.

– It can be very hard to check yourself here; you may not be able to tell the difference, but they will!

  1. Describe what you want for this person, using all of the senses.

– Tell them why they deserve it and why it is possible.

  1. Point out some facts (not opinions) about their situation that indicate that the problem does indeed exist.

– Try not to involve other people; let them speak for themselves.

  1. Express the desire to help, without attachment to what that looks like.

– Find out what they have tried already, and offer ideas.

  1. Let them know that you are going to check back in, and how and when.

– If this backfires, you can expect avoidance. It may be necessary to consider what you will do if they avoid you and let them know what that is.


Now your turn. What has worked for you?