Lost At The Mall
Over Labor Day weekend, Joanne and I spent time with my father and my siblings. It is something we have done every fall since my mother passed away, and is very enjoyable. This year we went to Minneapolis. In between some of the activities, there was time for shopping at the Mall of America. By my own admission, I am not a very good shopper, it’s just not my thing. So when Joanne and my sisters took the hotel shuttle to the mall to shop, I stayed back.
My sisters decided to return earlier than when Joanne was ready to leave, so they met a shuttle and came back to the hotel. When Joanne decided she was done, the shuttle had just left the mall and wouldn’t be back for an hour. She called me for a ride, and I was happy to oblige. She told me she would be waiting on the north side of the mall, right where the shuttle dropped them off. I was not exactly sure where that was, but had a good idea. When I got to the mall traffic was heavy and I couldn’t find what I thought was the correct turn, so I had to head on the interstate and around the block. Frustrating!
When I got to my destination, I couldn’t see the set of doors Joanne was describing to me on the phone. I asked her where she was in relationship to Nordstrom’s. She couldn’t see Nordstrom’s. She could see the stand alone Ikea store across the parking lot very easily. I looked and saw Ikea, but not with the same vantage as Joanne. I drove around a couple of standalone buildings on the north side of the mall and still could not see her. Where was she in relation to Sears? Again, she couldn’t see Sears but described a large star statue with multi colors. I had no idea where that was. So I looked for her on our “Find Friends” app on my phone. As I drove, I made a circle around her, frustrating!
To make matters worse, Joanne’s phone was about to run out of battery. As we talked on the phone, each describing our surroundings, and not able to see what the other was talking about, we decided to meet at another entrance. Frustrating! As small business owners and managers we are often asked to describe and communicate a thought, vision or even a product. In order to be effective in our role, it is important that each person we talk to see what we see, feel what we feel and buy into what we are trying to communicate. If we can’t do that we become essentially background noise. Not necessarily unpleasant, but not effective either.
To effectively communicate with someone, we need to understand their experiences. That takes time and effort. The ability to ask insightful questions and really listen to the answers is the key to the ability to communicate. Often too many of us fail to take the time and make the effort. That is a shame because once we can communicate with someone, the positive flow of ideas and learning is a thing of beauty.
Back at the mall, we finally met and I drove Joanne to the spot where I was trying to find her. She understood why I was confused and couldn’t find her. We then drove to where she was, and I finally saw what she was perfectly describing. We agreed that we were both right and both wrong with our communication, and blamed it on the engineers who designed the mall. We went back to the hotel and finished that enjoyable weekend with my family, no longer frustrated.