Can You Hear Me Now?

Communication is a funny thing. We all want to be heard even though we really don’t have anything to say.

“I thank you for your interest but it really wasn’t worth listening,” I heard son #1 say to son #2 last evening. He had been making some off the wall comment mainly to himself when his younger brother took his headphones off of one ear to say, “huh?” At least they were being polite to each other and trying to communicate.

heardI feel the same way son #1 did often in life. I will say something and it’s not profound. It’s nice to be acknowledged but it’s usually not worth repeating if someone doesn’t hear me the first time. I am often not heard. I think that’s from too many years of being shy and not speaking loudly enough. I mumble and my comments get overlooked. It’s odd because I can be plenty loud at home.

I also use far less classy language at home. I’m not proud to admit that I swear more than my trucker husband does. It’s a bad habit that I developed as a teenager. I was a shy kid and a nauseatingly good girl. I always behaved out in public and never wanted to disappoint my parents. I started swearing in high school because it was a secret way of defying my mother. My mother would’ve been horrified at some of the things that came out of my mouth when I was talking to friends. That’s why I did it and now that I’ve been doing it for 40 years, I don’t think it’s going to go away any time soon. I try not to do it at work because I know better than that. I try to say things like “oh, crap” or “oh for heaven’s sake” when things go wrong and I feel the need to curse. It’s not quite the same, though.

I’ve had issues recently with a new person at work. I can be socially awkward but I’m usually never intentionally rude. When someone talks to me, I answer him or her. This individual doesn’t respond in social situations – ever. If you say “hi” or “hello”, this person looks you in the eye, says nothing and walks away. Someone else suggested that possibly this person is autistic. I took offense to that. I know autism. My son has it. He answers people when they address him. I taught him how to behave in public. The rude person at work walked away from me without speaking again yesterday. I ended up sticking my tongue out at the back of this person’s head. Yes, I’m real mature. I’ve been told that before.

My work day started yesterday with a shower of stones and pebbles coming off the rooftop of a building I was passing. I thought it was hail until I realized it was concrete. They were working on the roof of the building. You’d think they could’ve blocked the walkway off, huh? Talk about wanting to curse out loud. Then I came out onto our city’s main street to find a raving street person coming towards me. There are quite a few disturbed (drunk, high or whacked) people wandering around downtown. I could hear this one coming from blocks away. I started to move to the edge of the sidewalk closer to the street (to his left) and I did not make eye contact. As he approached me, he yelled, “Get your ass to the left!”  He yelled the same thing at someone behind me, too. Okay, at least I’ve never yelled that at anyone. Maybe I should try it out at work sometime. Can you imagine the reaction?

I suppose in this guy’s mind he was just communicating. He wanted to be heard so he made sure that he used his outdoor voice. While I didn’t appreciate his choice of words, it had the desired effect. No one got in his way.

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There is No “I” in Team

I’ve never been a leader. I’m more of a follower or maybe you would call it an observer.  I usually sit back and watch what’s happening and then chime in when my help is needed.  I like to think of myself as wiser and older, and I offer my wisdom where and when I think it’s most beneficial.

teamWhen I volunteered to be team leader for the final project in my first class at Franklin University, I surprised even myself.  I’m not sure what made me do it.  Maybe I was trying to impress or maybe I was trying to break the mold and do something different for a change.  The final project is based on team-building.  We were given a list of movies and asked to pick two from the list.  The teacher then broke us up into teams based on our preferences.  There are seven teams.  Each one of the movies features a group of characters in various stages of becoming a team. For the assignment, we were asked to work together to choose a stage of team building we wanted to discuss and the roles that various team members play in the movie.  Then together we come up with ideas for a PowerPoint presentation.  The team leader puts together the PowerPoint slides. We then give the presentation live over the computer (with headphones and microphone).  Each team member will talk and present one or more slides.

It’s been an interesting project. At times it’s been fun and interesting. It’s also been frustrating.  My team (including me) is a group of four women.  Three of the four of us get along great, and we’ve been collaborating and communicating.  The fourth member is mostly absent.  She professed to only checking her email once or twice per week.  She’s only responded twice in four weeks.  I was feeling bad about that and getting a little angry until we had one of our online MEET sessions last night.

The MEET sessions involve using a software system where the teacher offers various times, and we pick one that works best.  Then you log in at that time, wearing your headset and microphone.  It’s like an hour in a classroom over the computer.  You can hear each other and see things on the screen; you just can’t see each other. The teacher leads the session and goes through PowerPoint slides.  We respond either verbally or by clicking on things on the screen.  It works rather well, and it’s new to me and kind-of unique. I like it.  At my last online school, we never did anything like that.  We recorded ourselves giving speeches and answering questions, but none of it was live.  You did it on your own time and submitted it for later review.  There was no interaction or immediate feedback.  In last night’s MEET session, I found out that I am not alone in having communication issues within my team.  In fact, others are suffering worse.  One poor man is on a two person team and doing all the work by himself. His team member won’t cooperate.  Another lady brought up the fact that she doesn’t check her email very often.  She said, “When I signed up for an online class, I didn’t know I had to check my email every day.”  I wanted to respond, “Duh.  How did you think you were going to communicate online with other people?” It never ceases to amaze me how silly some of the comments are. Online educators are striving to be more interactive and less like a correspondence school situation.

A correspondence school usually mails lessons and examinations to a student, and the student does all the work on their own time and then mails it all back in. I seriously think some (socially awkward) people are expecting that same sort of situation.  I am finding here (and at my last school) that there are people who wish to remain anonymous and don’t like it that the school isn’t promoting that type of environment. I think at one point in my life I might have preferred that myself, but I’m proud to say I’ve grown (and grown up) some.

I did pick up some helpful tips last evening.  Most classmates found that communicating with each other by email isn’t always working.  In the age of cell phones, most people text message each other.  It’s more responsive.  That is one thing I am going to try with my recalcitrant team mate. I do have her cell number.  We also have the option of using the MEET software, and I’m trying to set that up. The teacher also suggested that as the end of the assignment draws near, reluctant team members often surface, eager to participate and be graded for it.  I am hoping that she is right.

The next component to the project that I will struggle with is the peer evaluations.  I know one team mate who will not score high in terms of communication and cooperation.  I am just hoping that my team mates are not too harsh on me as a leader.

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