How NOT to Communicate

Rescuers, you are running A BUSINESS. In the rawest essence, you are entrepreneurs providing goods and services to customers. As entrepreneurs, you tend to have many great characteristics that lend to your success: perseverance, vision, passion, etc. However, many rescuers also share one significant flaw with most entrepreneurs: communication.

It is well documented that entrepreneurs often make terrible managers, and for the good of the business, once it grows to a certain point, the entrepreneur should step down and put a more communicative, detail-oriented manager in place. At the very least, the entrepreneur usually hires a more “managerial-type” personality to stand at his or her side.

In rescue, this is not always possible since, hey, we’re all doing it for free. However, both entrepreneurs and rescuers can strive to increase their communication and management aptitudes. I had a conversation with a rescuer (let’s just call her “Beth” – not her real name) today that really highlighted this point. My friend put in an application for a dog Beth had available. Beth emailed back and said she was approved, but the dog needed to be spayed. When could she come meet the dog?

My friend surely had questions: 1) The website states she will get a home visit and vet check before being approved. That didn’t happen. 2) The emails passed back and forth said something about taking the dog home unspayed and having the spay performed at a local vet. Huh? 3) Beth flatly refused to talk on the phone with my friend to answer her questions and help her understand the process.

My friend asked for my advice, and I decided to contact Beth myself because I, too, was confused, and considering the nature of our mission at Up For Pups, obviously it upsets me when I hear about people having bad experiences with rescue. To Beth’s credit, she called me immediately upon receipt of my email. I was impressed, but that’s where the good feelings ended.

Again, going back to the essence of things, one could say the conversation went like this:

Me: “Hi, I’m trying to understand your process, but it seems that you say you do things on your website that you don’t do. Was my friend approved to adopt even though she didn’t have a home check or vet check?”

Beth: “Your friend was not approved. She was just approved.”

Me: “She was very interested in adopting a dog from you, but since you refused to talk with her on the phone, she lost confidence.”

Beth: “All of your friend’s questions were driving me crazy. My emails said it all. Is she slow? I’m sorry. I didn’t realize she was slow.”

Me: “Uh…. Could I offer your some advice?”

Beth covering her ears and sticking her tongue out at me: “I’ve been doing this for 20 years. There is nothing you can say that will be worthwhile for me. I don’t have to listen to you!”

Me: “Uh…”

Beth: Click.

Really, it didn’t go exactly like that, but for the most part, that’s what happened. I had a really crafty email composed to follow up on the phone call, but I don’t think I should send it. She won’t get the message anyway. No matter, I’ll still get a kick out of sharing it with you:

Dear Beth,
Thank you for your call today. I appreciate your promptness. However, since you couldn’t understand what I was saying to you on the phone, you must be slow. Your questions and comments were driving me crazy.

How does that feel? That’s exactly what you said on the phone to me about my friend not understanding your emails.

What really happened on the phone was that I did not do an effective job of communicating with you. Do you see a parallel?

If this doesn’t make any sense to you, there is nothing more I can say. Please stop running “a rescue.” You’re making us all look bad.
Warm regards,
Kyla

The lesson from business is this: If your customer is not understanding you, YOU are not communicating effectively, and it’s on YOU to find a better way to get your message across for that particular individual.

What do you think about this situation?

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3 Responses to How NOT to Communicate

  1. Carol Duffy says:

    PEOPLE JUST DON’T WANT TO LOOK AT THEMSELVES IN THE MIRROR WHEN THERE COULD VERY WELL BE GUILT WRITTEN ON THEM FOR WHATEVER THE REASON. I APPLAUD YOU FOR TRYING TO ‘COMMUNICATE’ WITH THIS PERSON WHO OBVIOUSLY IS ‘SLOW!’ SINCE I ALSO KNOW THE INTERESTED ADOPTER, I KNOW THAT SHE IS IN FACT, A VERY EDUCATED PERSON- HARDLY SLOW! I UNDERSTAND YOUR FRUSTRATION WITH PEOPLE NOT OPEN TO DIALOGUE.

  2. M. Smith says:

    Been there …. done that. But my lack of communication or the “attitude” was from fellow volunteers who “had been doing this for 20 years and didn’t have time” or got offended when I needed a clarification on something …. Needless to say, I’m no longer volunteering with the organization, and it’s very sad !! And might I add, that during my time with the organization, they always complained about not having enough volunteers to help at events. I always thought ….. Dang, look in the mirror !!

  3. Ugh! All too often the case and exactly my point. It was so sad to me to hear how angry this woman was that I wanted to give her some helpful advice. I totally expected her to react the way she did, but I was holding out a little hope. I hope you find another rescue that is better managed to volunteer with.

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