While Youre Waiting

Not long ago, I made a partnership pitch, on behalf of an organization I represent, to another organization with similar interests. If the idea had come to fruition, it would have radically changed our organization.

So, you can imagine my impatience when I didn't hear back from the person to whom I'd made the proposal. She had welcomed the idea, but told me the decision would be made by a council within her organization.

Given the dynamics of an important decision about the future of their organization, I didn't expect a quick response. But, I would have liked at least an update advising me on the status of their considerations.

Then, I had a "Eureka," or maybe I should call it a "Whoops," moment. I realized I hadn't reported back to the people in my organization either. That made me guilty of the same lapse of communication as the lady in the other organization. With that recognition, I made amends by sending out an email to my organization, and followed up with a report at a meeting.

In taking an analytical view of this incident, I realized that nothing can be something when it comes to communication.

The idea that nothing can be something seems counter-intuitive. But remember the famous Sherlock Holmes observation about the dog that didn't bark; the fictitious detective solved a baffling case by noting what did not happen, rather than what did happen.

You can probably come up with several ideas about the importance of communicating even though nothing has changed. That's especially true if you're the one who didn't hear from someone else.

First, you may have made plans that assume either a change in or a continuation of the status quo. Perhaps you're holding off on holiday plans until the issue is resolved one way or the other.

Second, at least you know that an anticipated decision or event hasn't yet occurred, and that you didn't miss something (for example, as I write this I'm waiting for a client to confirm some information and it would be nice to know that I haven't missed a callback or an emailed reply).

Third, if you've received an update telling you nothing has happened, you don't need to contact that person and ask if there have been any developments. Similarly, you can advise the people who look to you for information.

One other note about the 'nothing can be something' idea: It's a variation on what I've called the Everybody Knows syndrome. That refers to a failure to communicate, based on the assumption that others know what I know.

In summary, it's a good idea to report regularly, even if nothing has happened, since others may not know you're still waiting as well.

About The Author

Robert F. Abbott writes and publishes Abbott's Communication Letter. If you subscribe, you will receive, at no charge, communication tips that help you lead or manage more effectively. You can get more information here: http://www.CommunicationNewsletter.com

[email protected]

In The News:

How to Negotiate with a Procurement Team  Harvard Business Review
Alumnae give advice on salary negotiation  Johns Hopkins News-Letter
BCC comments on UK trade negotiating strategy  British Chambers of Commerce

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