Monday, December 29, 2008

security guard

So, there's this security guard at work. He's in his late sixties or early seventies. He is quite spry. But I can't help but wonder what circumstances led to him having to do this job at his age. Stock market crash? Somebody fleeced him? What happened?

Anyway, he frequently thinks of something that he wants to tell one of us, but he is not capable of using complete sentences. Below is my representation of how he told us about losing his phone (while he was working in our lobby) and subsequently finding it. At least that is my best guess of what he was saying.

"Ahunh-ya, I tell ya my phone was scarin me knowin it was somewhere I didn't know where, coulda been anywhere. That gave me a scare, ahunh-ya, wouldnda got that thing for my own but when they brung at ere to me I was sure glad to see, ahunh-ya, cause who knew what, do you know it was scarin me?"

Those of us standing there had frozen smiles on our faces because he's a sweet man, but we just couldn't understand anything he said. After he went back to the lobby, we  discussed what we each thought he was saying. English is clearly his native language, so this isn't an issue of an immigrant trying to assimilate. It's interesting the different interpretations we each had. For instance, I rightly or wrongly perceived that he had lost, then found his phone. Another person said he thought the security guard was talking about eating broccoli. (Huh?) Another lady said that she thought he was telling us where he was going to be for the next twenty minutes.

This leads me to think about the power of communication. Each of us has occasion to talk to other people about various things. How much of what we mean to communicate actually gets across? Given the many misunderstandings I've witnessed over the years, I'd say it's easy to miss the mark, either as the speaker or as the listener. No doubt there are myriad studies about miscommunication.

I suppose the bottom line is that we each are responsible for ensuring that what we intend to communicate actually gets to the recipient. How to do that without annoying the crap out of everyone is a mystery to me. You can't very well go around asking people to repeat what you said, just so you can be sure you communicated it well. So, what is the answer?

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