November – The Rope Swing

by Tony Shepley, 



When you look at the cartoon above you can see the many ways that communication can fail. I love this cartoon and wish I knew to whom we might attribute it. It’s been around for decades and since the first time I saw it, I thought it was the perfect illustration of how things can get misunderstood in the building process.

Let’s face it, communication is a delicate art that can go awry on either the delivery or receiving end. As someone once said, “When you hear three completely different eye witness accounts of the same auto accident, it makes you want to question the whole industry.”

Our industry challenge is simply one of moving targets. Either the plan gets changed on the fly or the participants don’t stop long enough to really examine the plan. Sometimes the person putting the plan together doesn’t have all the information they need or perhaps they simply misinterpreted the information.

Here is our unofficial ranking of how the simple tire swing most often becomes unusable:
RUSH TO ACTION- often people get so hurried they run right past the obvious. When there isn’t time to do it right, you’ll have to find the time to do it twice. Slow down!
BLINDERS- too often the root of the problem is our hyper-focus on one aspect of the problem and a lack of wide-focus on the whole problem . . . sort of like some of our favorite forms of regulation that address one need, but also create all kinds of other needs (unintentionally?).
TUG OF WAR- sometimes one side just overpowers the other and some form of surrender takes place, but remember that surrender is likely only temporary and may come back to haunt you. “He or she convinced against their will, is of the same opinion still.”
JUST PLAIN UNREALISTIC- sometimes people can’t bear not to fancify, accessorize, expand, or bling out a simple element that would work so much better without the fancy, accessorized, expanded blinging.
I’LL SHOW YOU- Oh yeah, if that’s what you want, that’s what you’ll get. Don’t you just hate it when someone shoots themselves in the foot just to try to prove you’re wrong? Lose/lose!
MY LIPS ARE MOVING SO I MUST BE THINKING AND THEREFORE I CAN’T HEAR YOU- we all remember the ratio of two ears to one mouth, but most of us struggle to live by it. If you find yourself preparing your next sentence instead of listening to the other person, you now know how things get off track. We struggle to take the time to listen and that’s how we mangle a tire swing.
CONTEXT IS NOT A LITERACY PROGRAM FOR INMATES- we all have different reference points, different views, different experience, and different tastes. We don’t all think on the same plane and need to practice seeing the same view through the eyes of others. That’s what it takes: practice. The same simple rope swing can very easily end up not so simple after all.

Slow down, take in the whole picture, stay in balance, keep it simple, don’t get even, listen, and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Spell out expectations clearly and then you are likely to achieve them!

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