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Sunday, April 05, 2009

On Communication

Jean Sexton writes:

During this week, I have been reminded of the foibles in communication. We don't always communicate what we mean to. Once I was eating out with my family and a family friend. I wanted a particular dinner, but it was being served with a vegetable I detested. I asked the waitress, "May I have a substitution?" Her reply was, "No substitutions." I changed my order to something else.

When it got to our friend, he said, "You know, I hate that vegetable. Just leave it off my plate." The waitress replied, "Okay, but wouldn't you like some applesauce instead?" Our friend, stunned, agreed he would like that. We couldn't look at each other, for we had the same sense of humor and we knew we would crack up in the restaurant.

After our waitress left, my mother, from whom I obviously inherited my sense of absurd, said, "Well Jean, they were all out of substitutions. Luckily for Carl, they have plenty of applesauce!" That broke the dam and we dissolved into gales of laughter, subsiding into silly giggles. Until the day he died, our friend would ask as we walked towards a restaurant, "Do you think they will have substitutions?" and we would all snicker.

But sometimes, we don't manage to communicate well with others. Someone may post something that sounds like (or is) a personal attack. Sometimes a person may write something that is just so wrong, we feel we need to set them straight. Sometimes we may be so focused on what we are writing, we forget how the other person may perceive what we have written. Sometimes we may mean it one way, but because the person who reads it cannot hear our voice and cannot see our body language, they may not realize we were trying to be funny. Sometimes we cannot tell the person is getting upset and may inadvertently push too hard.

In many cases, the best response is to write that ever-so-clever response that slices and dices (and juliennes, too!) the person to pieces. Let a moderator know that you have an issue with a post. Then walk away for 24 hours (or run the proposed post past a moderator) and see if you still feel the need to post what you wrote (or if you will be in trouble). Most of the time, someone else will have stepped in to post a response in a more reasoned fashion or the moderator will have dealt with it.

What does this have to do with ADB, Inc.? Our moderators are staff such as Mike West and company officials such as Steve Cole and Steven Petrick. When we are dealing with a "situation", we are not designing products, proofreading and editing those products, or helping make the product a better one. One of the best ways that the fans can help us at ADB, Inc. is to not stir up or contribute to a flamewar (and to let a moderator know if one is in the making). That way we can focus on something like Federation Commander: Briefing #2, instead of asking a person to obey the BBS or Forum rules (which are really nothing more than the courtesy one should offer anyone).

Well, right now, my new fern which claims to be "Pteris cretica" (but I think is really Nephrolepis exaltata 'Fluffy Ruffles') is communicating that it wants water. So, I hear and obey.