Wednesday, July 30

Sympathy considered harmful

You start chatting with Adam by the water-cooler. He starts complaining about Brett. Your first instinct is to sympathize. And if Brett is Adams significant other that is absolutely what you should do.

If on the other hand they are two co-workers and it is important to you that they work together well, perhaps you should consider stating the obvious. The obvious being that the best way for Adam to resolve his communication problem with Brett is to actually talk to Brett (If you dig deep enough you usually find a communication problem at the bottom of it).

It is amazing how often people try to resolve a lack of communication by talking to everybody except the person involved.

Sometimes using a roundabout method is justified. Sometimes if you run into a roadblock with someone, and you are making no progress, by making your case to some one you both trust, you can create a bridge between the difficult person and yourself. But usually this is not what is happening, Adam is usually seeking sympathy not a bridge.

Worse they could be trying to form an alliance against Brett. Teamwork and co-operation is rarely improved by creating a “them” and an “us” within the team.

If you ask Adam whether they have talked to Brett about the behaviour they are complaining to you about, they might say that they have, but when you dig deeper you find they have given hints, rather than approaching the subject directly. The word "should" starts to appear frequently in the conversation. "Should have realized". "Should Understand". The word "should" can be quite a dangerous word. People should do many things but usually do not.

My preference is to concentrate on people’s actual behaviour and how I can encourage behaviour that results in better outcomes, rather than indulging in righteous indignation.

Next time this happens to you, perhaps you could consider becoming an active part of the solution, rather than a passive part of the problem. I know that this can be a difficult thing to keep in mind when you are lending a sympathetic ear to a friend, but the benefits can be a more peaceful environment.

Dear Reader,
What is your opinion? Would you leave well enough alone and just sympathize, or would you encourage Adam to talk further with Brett to try to resolve the problem?

Wednesday, June 4

Blogs for Marketing purposes

For a while I have been advocating making companies' Internet presences more interactive by the use of blogs, wiki and forums. Marketing staff are always receptive but management are often resistant. The topic has come up so often that I now have a standard spiel.
Web sites that publish reader’s comments increase customer engagement. As do sites that communicate in a more personal style (e.g. in the form of a blog).These more interactive sites can be used to

  • Gather customer preferences and needs
  • Rehabilitate a reputation of arrogance and ignoring customer’s preferences
  • Create a more personal two way dialog with customers instead of a breakdown into impersonal gathering and disseminating information.
  • Build community
  • Create customer buy in
    • Customer’s criticisms will be more constructive and their attitude more positive if they believe they are part of the process
There is often resistance to these ideas usually centered on losing control of the process. But losing control of the process is not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing is to be totally ignored.
There is a misconception about where the power is in a conversation. The power is with the listener not the speaker. If the listener is thinking about the shopping list or what they are going to say next then the speaker is raising the air temperature of the room and little more. It follows that trying to keep control of the situation by keeping an iron grip on what is said is a foolhardy exercise. You increase your comfort as you speed your way to disaster. Your ears are soothed by the sound of your own voice as it echoes in an empty room.

The company that has a one way presence on the net has no user comments on their blog (because they have no blog). No user additions to their FAQ (because it is not Wikified). No discussion threads in their forum (because their customers are too busy talking behind their backs where they can not hear them). If someone posts some vitriol in a comment on their blog at least they have the commenter's attention and the beginnings of a discussion. This is better than the 'chirp chirp' sound of silence.