Friday, April 25, 2008

"Comms Are a Two-Way Street"

"That unit is so f--ed up. They never tell us anything."

"I never hear from you anymore."

"Something isn't right here. Our offices are right next to each other, but we never have any idea of what you guys are doing."

"I totally saw you the other day and you didn't say 'hi.'"

These are all real quotes, and unless the speaker was actively trying to engage the person on the receiving end, they're all incredibly stupid. (The fourth one is in its own category of stupid, because it indicates the speaker ID'd the recipient, but it's not clear that the reverse is true as well).

Why are they so logically bass ackwards?

Because they all presuppose that somehow the person being spoken to is solely responsible for the communications breakdown between the two parties.

My former chief and I (the one I worked with overseas from 2006 to 2007) heard the first quote said so often among the units on our base that we just began to reflexively say, "Well, comms are a two-way street" so often that it became a sort of buzzword/catchphrase for us.

We dropped the hammer pretty hard on our own guys when we heard them lament that "[Name of unit] never tells us what they're planning." It's like, did you ask them? Unless all your fingers are broken, they're just seven short digits away on any of the phones we have. E-mail tends to work pretty good, too.

We threw it right back on anyone who used it on us, too. I'm not normally sarcastic, but I'm sure I added to my reflexive "two-way street" retort with a little barb to top it off. It's amazing how otherwise-intelligent people are just dumbstruck by the idea that they, too, can initiate comms. It's like, if I'm at my desk 16-18 hours a day, and my desk is next to a computer and a phone, I'm pretty doggone easy to reach, right?

Again, if the person saying this has made the effort, it's a totally fair point. But more often than not, they haven't.

To take it away from a military setting, quotes 2 and 3 get used all the time in everyday life.

And for all the same reasons, they're just as dumb. Quote #2 in particular can be mildly insulting when the person hearing it made the initial effort and stopped after being originally rebuffed or ignored by the speaker.

If nothing else, you have to admit that's very ironic. It also shows an astonishing lack of self-awareness.

My challenge to readers: the next time an otherwise-intelligent person says anything like quotes 1-4 with a straight face (again, assuming there hasn't been a good faith outreach attempt on the speaker's part), call it out for what it is.

Throw our catchphrase at them: "Comms are a Two-Way Street." You will have won a tiny skirmish in the Global War for Common Sense.

Somewhere, a Chief Petty Officer and a Lieutenant will be smiling.

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