Monday, March 25, 2013


It's funny to me that we have a word in English that is so clearly Spanish: incomunicado.  I know there are lots of loan words from other languages in English (kindergarten, smorgasbord, bonsai, hula), but incommunicado seems different.  Maybe because it's an ordinary adjective and it sounds so much like an English word (uncommunicative) with a Spanish ending added on.  It's like Spanglish:  "So were over at the parent-os the other day and la mama was very incommunicado..."  And there's nothing about the meaning of incommunicado that is inherently Spanish or Latin American.  It just means out of contact.


Anyway, this post is not about linguistics, but communication.  Lately it seems that lots of people just suck at it.

The caterer we hired for our wedding is very nice, eager, and competent, except that he never emails when he says he will.  Twice now he's said he'll send us the menu over email and he hasn't.

A tailor that my betrothed was trying to get to make her dress kept saying she would get back to her, but never did.  So she's moved on to other options

I fired my realtor because she was taking too long to get back to me.  The last time it took her six days to respond to an email about setting up an appointment to meet.  Then her suggestion was a week later than when I wanted to meet.  This made it difficult for me to plan things.  I have a life outside my realtor, you know. 

(When I told my realtor I was going to "go in a different direction"-- a euphemism I've encountered all too often in job rejection letters-- she responded within two hours.  Oh, I guess THAT got your attention!  She said she was shocked and sad to hear this news.  I almost responded, but decided it was best to just let the conversation die.  Two days later, she called me on my cell while I was out buying groceries.  I had a very uncomfortable conversation with her in the parking lot of the supermarket.  Her daughter has cancer and that's why she was preoccupied.  I'm very sorry to hear about your daughter, but I really just wanted to get my house ready to sell.) 

Another professional contact took five days to get back to me, apologized for the delay and promised to be more responsive in the future.  I responded, he responded with a quick, "I will get back to you shortly."  Then it took four more days for him to respond.

When I was shopping around for a new realtor, I emailed someone who had been recommended to me.   She never responded.  It's been two and a half weeks and she totally ignored my initial message.  Not even to say, "Sorry, but I don't have time to take you on." 

So there seems to be a case of incommunicado going around.  (And I realize that I'm not using that word entirely correctly.  Officially it means someone who's not able to communicate, not someone who's just too busy to.)  It really does seem weird that so many people are so bad at simple communication.  I wonder if it has to do with modes of communication.  My preferred method is email, but maybe lots of people, especially people who don't sit at a desk all day, don't see it as very urgent.  Another theory is that people are just too damn busy these days.  [Shakes fist at computer like an angry old man.]

My high school English teacher used to say that millions of dollars are lost every year in business due to poor communication. I can think of some specific businesses that have lost some of my money for that very reason.  


asplenia said...

This is really sad and *shouldn't* be the case, but I have had a number of clients tell me that the reason they hired me was because I was the only one who called them back. I get so irritated when people don't return calls -- I think "I am here with my wallet open, don't you want my business??"

chocolatechip said...

Funny, I am trying to get in touch with a contractor right now. When I called him in February, he said he wasn't available until mid-March. I've now called twice in late March. I think maybe I need to keep trying until I catch him when he picks up the phone.

Tim said...

I don't know if cell phones have made the problem worse or better. People are more accessible than ever, but with caller ID they can also avoid your calls. And maybe because people are so accessible, we've changed our expectations. Or some people find it too hard to keep up and so they have to retreat. I don't know.