Monday, May 20, 2013

"What we have here is a failure to communicate" Prison guard to Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke

Joe worked hard to help his 14-year-old son find the right baseball team. He took him to tryouts, spoke to the coaches, compared costs, and matched game schedules with his son's other activities. He did it all and he did it well.  And his son was super-excited about the team they chose.

Then Joe approached his son's mother, Linda, about paying half the sign up, travel, and uniform costs. She replied: "You've got to be kidding! No way!"  Joe was hurt and angered: "What else could I have done? I did all the work, saved you all the hassles. I thought you would be happy that I took on the responsibility."

What had Joe done wrong?  As far as working relationships go, he failed to do the most important things of all: communicate, consult, and listen.

Consider Linda's point of view:

"I don't like surprises."  
Joe startled Linda with a "done deal" that incurred significant costs.  She resented not being asked for input and worried about the long-term financial commitment. And now Joe wanted an on-the-spot decision.  Thus, she made a hasty emotional decision: "Forget it."   In short, Joe had not provided her time to make a reasoned decision.

"What in the world were you thinking signing him up for such an expensive program?"
Good question. Joe may have sound reasons for choosing an expensive program, but how would Linda know?  He hadn't informed her along the way as to the options and why he eliminated less expensive alternatives.

"Don't my thoughts count for anything?"  
Apparently not. If Joe wants her to share the cost, he better learn to share decision-making. Without a request to be involved, Linda feels her viewpoint is not just unwanted, it is without merit -- at least from Joe's perspective. Linda wants Joe to solicit her views, not ignore them.

"What choice do I have? Pay up or look like a jerk to our son? What kind of choice is that?" 
Linda feels coerced. Joe has created a wonderful opportunity for their son to enjoy a sport -- and an equally wonderful opportunity for Linda to look like a spoilsport. Of course, she can go along with Joe and pay a portion of the fees--but at the cost of feeling trapped into a plan she does not endorse.

Before deciding: Inform, ask for advice, listen. 

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