Taking the Bait

Did you get my VM?

See my txt?

Read my email?

The list goes on.

Its not really a question about what we've seen or read, its a plea for attention, a request for time. Instead of just saying we need to talk with someone we feel compelled to be oblique, to ask a related question hoping the listener will take the bait and respond.

A pre-textual pause to engage with others peripherally.

Somehow we've migrated away from direct communication despite the plethora of tools we have at our disposal.

But I don't take the bait.

Years ago I worked in a kitchen (all through school I worked in kitchens – I loved the heat and speed and intensity.) One day I missed work due to a car accident. The next day I returned and the chef asked me if I had a good reason for being absent. I said yes, and that was it.

He never asked me what the reason was. He was not oblique.

Years later a boss at P&G didn't like some of my decisions. But he let me run the dept my way. If he disagreed he would say so, then let me go ahead. Once he almost told me the same thing twice, but he caught himself before he did so saying, 'I already told you that. If I said it again it would redundant.'

He did not feel the need to repeat things. He knew simple redundancy did not make a point stronger.

The people I learned from as I was maturing in the workforce taught me a lot about clarity and brevity and the benefit of direct – and succinct – communication.

So today if you ask me if I got your email, saw your call, heard your message and so forth, I'll probably say one word: yes or no. There's no reason to rehash again what you told me: putting it into another medium won't change the gist of it or my reaction to it.

If I felt like you needed a response or your idea required discussion I would have responded. The fact that I haven't means I don't.

And here's a little secret; most leaders are like me.

We don't have the time, inclination or bandwidth to get into multiple versions of the same conversations. We're too busy managing our work, spending time with family and friends and in general looking for some peace. So if you want to engage leaders ask direct questions that aren't repetitive. Value their time.

Luring others into a conversation they don't desire is not helpful to you, or the organization. The more you encumber communication the less useful it is.

The next time you ask me if I saw your email, don't be surprised if I just say yes (or no) and keep on walking.

Get over it: I'm not taking the bait.



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