Baby blue underlay … Swiss dotted lace … tuxedo ruffles … spaghetti straps … satin bow … ball gown skirt … and tiny buttons going down the front … I loved (and still love) that dress. As you can see from the very old photograph, I added the pearls and a lovely white rose (with baby blue ribbon and baby’s breath) corsage. Perfection - at least in my eyes! Every year, the Sundowners (my high school dance drill team) held a Presentation, a formal dinner/dance event to “present” the new officers and give out awards - think mini-prom with formal gowns, tuxedos, flowers, and even little programs at the tables (I still have ALL of mine of course). Usually I wore an old bridesmaid dress (and yes, I did wear a few again!), but for this year, my mom and dad were buying me a new dress. My “say yes to this dress” story began with visits to formal dress shops (and trust me, Houston is filled with these stores). After a long day of shopping, I found the dress. Just like the television show, I just knew it was the one! And just like the television show, the dress was WAY over my budget! But my mom loved the dress almost as much as I did, so she bought the dress on a payment plan - $80 down with monthly payments. I honestly don’t remember the exact cost of the dress (I think about $300), but I do remember the $80. Why? Because when we returned home with the dress in hand (no alterations needed - another sign that this dress was meant to be mine!), my dad asked how much we spent on the dress. My mom honestly answered, “We spent $80 today.” Note the word “today” and my mom’s subtle way of not sharing ALL of the information about the cost of the dress. And, realize that to this day, my dad still thinks that the dress cost $80. You see, my dad has never realistically understood how much women’s clothes and shoes and purses cost. He barely understood how much men’s clothes cost with the exception of a good suit every few years. My dad did not go shopping, so my mom purchased his clothes for him and returned things that didn’t fit. The process totally worked for my dad but led to his lack of knowledge about the cost of clothes. And that’s how we “got away with” my blue dress.
So is today’s communication lesson about “getting away with” stuff or tricking others? Of course not! This blog is about realistic expectations with communication. In our ever-advancing-technology-based world, things change very quickly, and many times the “rules” are never outlined or shared causing misunderstandings and miscommunication. Many times, these different expectations occur generationally. Emailing became popular in the late 1990s followed closely by texting, so my generation (remember I’m old!) used phones (landlines not cellphones) and snail mail to communicate. We left messages on answering machines, and if necessary, faxed a document. See how things have changed? For the most part, I believe that we all (old and young) have embraced the changes - even my 82 year old mom emails and sends text messages (although she doesn’t understand how to backspace to make corrections so she just retypes the word again) - but we don’t all have the same expectations. At a recent communication training, one of the participants (a young up and coming salesman) shared concerns about text messaging and the delay or even lack of responses. For this young man, texting is the most effective and efficient communication method, but in this business setting, his communication expectations differed from those of his intended audience. How can we solve this issue? Easy, peasy! Respect all communication expectations by using a variety of communication methods. Pick up the phone and make that call. Craft that killer email and press send. Leave a voice message and don’t rely on someone seeing your number to return a call. And for goodness sake, check your voice messages often. Send a note through the office intermail or snail mail. Walk down the hall or make a trip to communicate face-to-face. And the best advice -- use a variety of these methods to discover what works best for each person and each situation. etc Strategies believes that using a variety of communication methods will meet a variety of communication expectations and produce more effective, productive, and efficient communication experiences with less misunderstandings. But one final note -- if you meet my dad, please don’t share my secret. He still thinks that dress cost $80!