I Thought I Understood ... Who Knew?
March 8, 2016
I am always telling people to never assume, but there are some things you cannot anticipate. Assumptions are based on general knowledge, but the basis for any one person is their personal experience or perceived understanding of something. In fact, right now as you read this, you are assuming I am about to tell you a story ... and you would be correct.
I was recently having lunch at a restaurant that has servers with unique personalities and styles. My instincts tell me the hiring practices of this establishment include a certain personality type. Anyway, I was doing my usual stall while trying to figure out what to order, when I decided to ask my server, "What's the funniest thing a customer ever said to you that made think "Huh?"
The young lady laughed, thought about it, and then told me about a lady who once ordered a margarita.
Server: What flavor would you like?
Customer: I want alcohol flavored.
Server: No, what flavor of tequila; lime, strawberry, peach...
Customer: I don't drink tequila, I hate it!
My server started laughing because she was looking at my face and could tell I was wondering the same thing she did when the customer told her she hated tequila, how does that work if you want a margarita with an alcohol flavor, it's not like there is another alcohol substitute for the drink.
Now, I will let you in on where this is going, it is customary in our business to place in employment want ads, "No Calls Please." I always thought it to be a pretty straightforward statement with no need for interpretation; wrong assumption on my part. Here's my text exchange with a personality.
She Took It Literally
Jock: Hi, Sam, I hope you enjoyed your weekend. I downloaded audacity. I wanted to know, after applying for a gig and e-mailing my package, if and when it's okay to reach out to the PD to set yourself apart? Does this help or hinder the process?
Coach: If you want to know if your package was received, there is a little trick you can use. Send an e-mail stating that you are checking to make sure they got your information and that it did not go to spam. For some reason this seems to always trigger a response. Apparently everyone has found things in spam that should not have gone there, I guess it's some sort of "I can relate" thing.
Jock: Most companies nowadays say "no phone calls, please," so I was under the assumption that following up was an outdated practice. I never considered an e-mail as an option as I assumed no phone calls translated to "don't contact us at all about this position." Thank you again!
Coach: No, it just means no phone calls
Jock: Gotcha! Grateful for the clarification. I will be sure to send an e-mail to those parties by tomorrow. Thank you.
Some Things Are Not Common Knowledge For Everyone
Whenever I get such a question, it reminds me of assumptions I have made. There was a time all of us were regular citizens ... actual listeners. When you were young, how many of you thought all the jocks you heard worked at the station you listened to? Come on, admit it, don't feel bad, I can remember calling KMOX and asking to speak to Jack Buck after a baseball ballgame when I was 11 years old -- an assumption that changed with more life experience.
Common Knowledge...Common Sense
Regardless of age or the length of time in radio, the knowledge base varies, and it is part of human nature for many to not say anything rather than admit they don't know. Never be embarrassed to ask a question concerning something you assume everyone else knows the answer to. You assume the nodding of heads in a meeting means a common knowledge base on the subject matter; it is just not so. I remember being one of two people other personalities would come to for an explanation after staff meetings at a station I used to jock. These were smart people, but I had worked with the PD elsewhere and understood the examples and purpose of what he was talking about in our group sessions. The PD assumed all the staff understood what he said.
Starting today, if you don't already do so, ask and do not assume the intentions or meaning of anything that could be left to the slightest interpretation. Also, when it's you doing the talking, be clear and use examples to increase the possibility others will understand and not resort to assuming. One other thing -- the initial epidemic ... I am talking about the continuing American habit of shortening words and labels to mere initials .... too many don't really know what you're trying to say. Please stop, OMG!