Rodney M Bliss

What My Dysfunctional Family Taught Me About Business Communication

Triangle: A three sided figure. Also, how my family communicates

Growing up my family was pretty dysfunctional. Don’t assume by that, that we didn’t love one another. It’s just there were marriages, divorces, adoptions, siblings, half-siblings, five schools in the fifth grade.

Anyway, one of the ways we learned to cope was by communicating. Or, ratehr not communicating. We avoided direct confrontation. If I didn’t like something my mother did, I’d wouldn’t mention it directly to her. I’d tell my brother. And then he’d tell her. If my sister was annoyed with me making too much noise in the bathroom in the morning as she tried to sleep in, she’d mention it to my brother who in turn would talk to me about it.

Come to think of it, most of us talked to my younger brother.

Anyway, we got really good at that three-way communication. In fact, we got so good that I didn’t even realize it wasn’t normal until I married my lovely wife and my methods of communication kind of screwed up our marriage for a while. Eventually, I figured out how to talk to her. And even to talk to my family.

But, like riding a bike, you never forget a useful skill, even a dysfunctional one once you learn it.

Our team has a big presentation to the client next week. It involves a dozen people and over two dozen slides. I’m the IT guy, so my parts of the presentation have to do with IT. It’s only a couple of slides. I didn’t even realize that they were waiting on things from me until a few hours before our online phone conference to review the slides.

My parts were pretty simple. The client meeting is really about operations. If nothing goes too wrong with IT, there’s not much for me to share.

During the call, I realized there was more information that the team wanted from me. The senior director was asking about it.

I think I saw Rodney on the call. Rodney, are you here?

Yeah. What do you need?

Can you see my screen?


See this slide here? I need the data for this slide from last quarter.

Sure. I can probably pull that together before we get off the phone. I don’t remember seeing that in the email. Sorry if I missed it.

To be honest, I knew the request for more data hadn’t been in the email. After all, the information took less than 15 minutes to compile. I would have send it as soon as I read the email. But, you won’t accomplish anything by contradicting a senior director.

And, it didn’t really matter to me. I just wanted to be sure I hadn’t missed a different email, or more subtly, I wanted to let whoever asked for the data realize their mistake without calling them out on it.

It was a great plan except for Garry. Garry is one of the managers. Not mine, of course. I’m in IT, these people are all operations. Anyway, Garry wouldn’t let it go.

Yeah, Rodney, you missed it. But, that’s okay. The important thing is we caught it now.

No, that wasn’t the important thing. Well, it was, of course, but calling me out on it in front of the team was kind of a lousy thing to do.

The original email I recieved had come from Bryan. I opened a chat window with Bryan.

Did I miss something? Was that request in the email you sent me?

No. I was covering for Zeke and I didn’t know they wanted that information included.

Okay. Thanks. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing an email request somewhere.

No, you’re good. I let Garry know as well.

Really? Gee, I never even considered him. 😉

Of course I considered him. And I absolutely wanted Bryan to clear it up. And thanks to my dysfunctional family communication methods, I was able to get exactly that.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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