One of the things I get all the time is an apparent continuation of a conversation I was in some time ago, and I’m meant to pick up the thread without any explanation or context.
Depending on the people you are dealing with, this can be quite an easy trap to fall into. As a DBA that looks after many instances of multiple database engines, middle tier technologies and load balancers, I tend to get pulled into loads of conversations. For the person in question, let’s say a developer working on one project, they see this interaction as a one-to-one relationship between them and me, but for me it’s a one-to-many, as I’m dealing with many such conversations at the same time.
When I’m in that position I’ve stopped trying to figure it out, and now the conversation goes something like this.
- Person : You know that thing we were talking about last week?
- Me : No.
- Person : You know, that thing…
- Me : I literally have no idea. Please explain…
In some situations, it turns out it wasn’t even me they had the conversation with, or I wasn’t copied into the emails. A fact that only becomes evident when they take the time to order their thoughts…
I’m generally pretty happy to help people out, but I’m not going to go through hypnotherapy to pull back distant memories in order to continue a conversation you think I should remember. As you saw from my previous post on this subject, I expect each interaction to be self-contained. If there is any context necessary, it should be in the interaction itself. I shouldn’t need the skills of Professor X to pull it out of your head…
So before you pick up the phone, start typing on chat, or begin an email, take a second to plan the conversation in your own mind.
- What introduction is necessary to get people up to speed?
- Is there any prior knowledge I’m assuming, that I probably shouldn’t?
- What is the main purpose of this interaction?
- What are the outcomes I’m looking for?
It will only take a couple of seconds to figure this out. I’m not asking you to spend an hour preparing for a five minute chat, but don’t just launch into a stream of consciousness and expect everyone else to jump back in at exactly the same spot they left.