Trying to be helpful
I’ve had it – I’m sick of people trying to be helpful! Why?
It’s repeatedly the case that I ask someone or the other ( – and it doesn’t matter who) for a simple piece of information by email e.g. “Am I at venue X on Mon, Tues and Wednesday?” (because I need certainty to plan other things – so just double checking).
Then I get some strange answer such as, “X [the venue] will be on Monday (pm) and Tuesday (full day), travelling after to Y (approx 1 hour travel) Wednesday to Thursday (full days) and Friday (am)”
So now I’m trying to work out ‘Am I travelling to Y at the end of Tuesday? Am I at Y Wednesday to Friday?’ or ‘Am I travelling to Y at the end of Wednesday? Am I travelling all day Wednesday?’ And why would I wonder now about all that? Because the norm is never to break the week at Tuesday. But hang on, I did not even ask about ‘full days’ and ‘travelling’.
I know, you think I should stop being fussy and accept that people are trying to be helpful. Well sod it! All I wanted to know was whether I was at X on Mon, Tue and Wednesday. That’s it!
What could be more simple than a ‘Yes’ or a‘No’ or a with some clear explanation if relevant. Such as? “No – you’re at X on Mon and Tues, then Y from Wednesday to Friday. Would you also like travel information?”. But no – here’s what they do:
- Not answer the question clearly
- Weave information that was not asked for into the response i.e. travelling and full or half days
- Make a statement that is unclear due to poor sentence structure.
And this sort of thing happens in lots of places. Why? Because people live in their own heads! Who are they communicating with? Why are they communicating at all?! What’s the point of making a response? To whom is the information communicated meant to serve? What’s the point of trying to be helpful if you end up not being helpful. I know this – you see being helpful is such a highly prized thing. Oooooh.. in England if somebody says ‘You’re not being helpful!’ – that’s a really bad thing. It’s a cultural thing, not just here in England but in other parts of the world. So – you really want to overdo your job, to get a pat on the back or pat yourself on the back that ‘you’re a helpful person’. Bollocks!
Well, I promised to spend less time on ‘stupidity’ – it’s very difficult, you know! I mean as I try to escape the thing, it follows me – I feel stalked!
Right – what’s the point? Stop trying to helpful. Do the job and do it properly. Answer the question. Think – “Have I included relevant detail?” and “Will it be understood by the other person – as I understand it? (because I don’t want another email asking for clarification).” You see what I mean – you have to tell people what to do. I’m beginning to think that people loathe being directed but actually that is what they need. (Just to be clear, I mean ‘people in general’. Tough if you feel broad-brushed. ‘You?’ Yes ‘you’ reading this – I don’t care who you are! )