Frequent, or even occasional, readers of my blog will likely be aware of the fact that I tend to ruminate fairly often on issues of communication. In particular, I find it rather distressing that my life is often in a cone of silence . Over and over again I am reminded of how irksome and irritating my life can be because I am simply not informed of things, and today was one of those days that seemed defined by such silences. At times I am responsible for the awkward silences, but in this particular occasion I was not, at least not to my knowledge. Instead, in at least two cases the silence of others put me in the situation where I was cast in unfamiliar territory, both literally and figuratively, and had to make my way based on those changes. I would like to talk about those two situations and make some observations on them, as they are emblematic of larger concerns.
Around 9:00AM or so I saw my new teammates walking by the fishbowl of an office (affectionately called the “cage”) where I still work much of my time doing the reporting duties that have not yet been automated. After most of them had gone by, one of them motioned for me to come along with them, and I quickly locked my computer and joined them in the conference room. Not being generally used to weekly meetings, as I have been cast adrift in departments without a great deal of communication, I found this particular meeting to be deeply humorous. There was some teasing about our welcoming party yesterday for one of our new coworkers in California, plenty of good-natured ribbing directed at me for my acquaintance with Ludacris and Marshawn Lynch as a result of my trip to the first Domopalooza, and some ribbing of a a former employee of the department who now lives in Las Vegas as well as a coworker of ours who ran into trouble in seeking to prove her marriage to an American citizen was a valid one. In this particular case, the silence of not knowing about the meetings was fairly obvious–it has taken a while for me to be added to the distribution list for the department and the Friday morning meetings have come about as a tradition, one that I am being initiated into. It will likely not take very much time, especially once I am at my new desk on a permanent basis, for such a tradition to be automatic and habitual. But it is not a habit yet.
The second case was, as one might expect, more irritating. After having enjoyed a lunch at one of my frequent stops for chicken and sweet tea after work, I drove to the location of the Oregon DHS for a family progress meeting for my CASA kiddo. Seeing the parking lot nearly empty, I had a sinking feeling, which was exacerbated by the fact that the building was locked. After having spent a significant amount of time, much of it on foot, trying to find the building where the Oregon DHS had moved, I eventually found on my cell phone a map of the new location, almost a mile away from the previous location, and I drove over there and got to the meeting about half an hour or so late. I was considerably irate at not knowing that DHS had moved its Beaverton location but I was much less irate after I got to the meeting and got to chat with the various people there, including the case worker for the adorable toddler, the toddler’s parents and current foster parents, and the facilitator. Apparently some people had been told about the change of address, but for whatever reason that memo never made it to me, at least not to where I became aware of it.
What can we learn from these two situations? For one, many people operate on implicit knowledge, and assume that others are in the loop. Time and time again in my life, I find that I am not in the loop nearly as often as I would wish. At times, this can be corrected by making implicit knowledge explicit. Seeing my new teammates, for example, walking by my office clued me in that something was going on, and someone paying attention to my presence made the invitation explicit. Likewise, I was able to, at some length, find the new DHS building because I was able to find the new address on my phone, despite the fact that I had not been made aware of the move, and I ended up getting far more exercise than I had bargained for. I would have been considerably less late had I been informed ahead of time or had I paid better attention to the address on the sheet and looked it up the first time I approached the locked old building. In both cases, the lack of communication made for a somewhat unfamiliar day full of disorienting changes, but in neither case did it end badly. Implicit knowledge was simply made explicit, and then I made the best of it, and scheduled some meetings to take advantage of having people there that I needed to talk to. If only all silences could end that happily in purposeful communication.
 See, for example: