In my continuing interest in cross cultural communication, I have had an interesting couple of weeks with challenges as to how people communicate. I have had 3 separate companies that didn’t use e mail consistently as a form of communication. As you can imagine, this spawned a series of communication issues, from length of time waiting for response, to lack of clarity, and frustration on both sides. I am not young. I am not old either! But I have adapted like most of the professional world to relying on e- mail, texts, and phone calls as three forms of communication. I do not communicate through social media, I prefer to remain more consistent in my “Big 3” world (e mail, text, phone) since I am not too consistently active in the online social world. I also am not a huge fan of Skype or face to face video calls, but do them when necessary.
What I learned was that, as you can also imagine, was that the owners of these companies are either in an environment, or have surrounded themselves in an environment where their normal professional interactions can be handled as if it’s 1987. They are great with faxing, in fact one woman said to me with pride “I can get that faxed to you pretty quickly…..” Another person said to me “I have been waiting for that signed contract. Where is it?!?!” I said “I e- mailed it to you last week. Didn’t you get? I would be happy to re-send”. He said “I don’t check my e mail that often…. I’ll check it and get back to you.” In another case a woman said to me “I don’t know how to use e mail, but my daughter sends and receives them for me usually on Fridays when she is in the office.”
In each of these cases, they are small businesses that were started several years ago, by the same people who are managing them today. They simply haven’t adapted or needed to adapt to continue either their income or growth. In a related case I had a caterer from a city in Texas recently tell me “We don’t do contracts, we do handshakes.” I then proceeded to explain to her that you can’t obtain a P.O. with a long-distance hand shake and eventually had to coach her on how to write a basic agreement.
As I have felt frustrated I have learned that their lack of innovation and modernity doesn’t make them bad folks. Just old school businesspeople who have chosen not to join the 21st century. In one case, an owner told me that he only had “2 or 3 more years to go before I hand this off to my son.” I can only imagine how his son can step in with a Mac and change procedures overnight. So, I feel like I am a conduit between old and new. Understanding both sides, even if I side with modernity. I know that I have even been slower to adapt to the Cloud and certain apps. Chron magazine has a couple of articles that in a simple way describe the positive and negatives of communication technology:
Final thoughts? I guess that it would be great if everyone communicated the same way, but they don’t. They actually never did. I remember what a professional office was like prior to e mails and texts. People are different. Period. Some people are fast responders, some need more time to process info and respond, and some are in between. Some people are crazy busy, and some are steady. Some care more and some find their work as work only, and have little personal investment into their job. Modern communication only has given us a platform of efficiency- for those of us who were, or are ready to handle it.