Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Communicating to Different People

I have a friend, who has been asking on and off for a year or so about how to get set up for retirement. As far as I know she has not opened a Roth IRA yet, because it seems overwhelming to her. In the past month I dumped about $5,000 into various company stocks that were tanking from the pandemic recession. While I'm delighted to tell you I bought Boeing for $101.45 a share and AT&T for $26.28, how do I describe to a person, a very educated person, how to simply open a Roth IRA? It's night and day. A different friend bought puts on a company back in February, and while I've never actually bought or sold and options or puts, I understood it (and he might have made thousands on it). Yet there is this huge gulf where people don't even have investing accounts. Frankly, 48% of Americans 55 and older do not have any money in a 401(k) or IRA.

I work in a role that is highly, highly cross functional. I work with all the departments. Lately I've been stressing out (and I'm in therapy in large part because of it) because I don't know how to communicate with the different groups in ways they understand. My friend who wants to get into a self directed retirement account (she has a 401(k)), but missed out on the recent 23% gain is a great analogy for communication with a person who has very different experiences and ways of communicating.

Here's another example, give me a map, any kind of map, a flight map, a topography map, a road map, and I'll get to where we want to go. But some people need to know the exact distance between each turn. Some people need to see what each intersection looks like before they get to it. Some people can't find themselves on any map.

The point is, communication has to be tailored to the audience to be effective. Each one of us has skills. Sometimes we don't even realize our skills, but we definitely notice when that is not someone else's skill.

When we are entering a critical time at work every 6-12 months around a product release or entering a pandemic I tell people the same thing, "Be patient. Keep Communicating." Yes I came up with it myself. Because impatience often leads to not only yourself getting upset, but others getting upset. And often, communication can mitigate those issues. The problem is, when one person stops communicating well, and starts being impatient, it spreads, other people get impatient and then stop communicating well.

I don't have the answer. I mean, being patient and keeping communicating totally helps, but ultimately it's a two way street. Another way to put it is the best teacher in the world can still have a student fail because the teacher's attempts to communicate in different ways doesn't inspire the student to want to learn.

Where am I going with this? Try. Try to communicate. Try to understand the people you are communicating with. Don't just give up. I've done four 24 hour races and essentially flopped in three of them, but the one that went well, it went quite well, and I look forward to doing that again. So hang in there. Take another step. Keep going. And worst case, if you can't figure out the communication, at least you know you tried.

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