photo Arno Rafael Minkkinen

Never one for making small talk or scribbling short text messages, I find blogging to be a meaningful interaction where I can communicate my thoughts and express my feelings. Blogging also gives others the opportunity to respond to your words by providing their own thoughts on the topic. People feel that they are being heard which is a rare occurrence today.

Have you ever tried using the help support offered with many software applications? You may have a specific question that you need to know the answer to immediately in order to move on with your task. When you click on the help button it provides you with a list of pre-constructed topics. They consist of what the software developer believes to be frequently asked questions.

So, what if you can’t find your question on the list? You then need to decide which of them is the closest to your question. Often it is poles apart and you are left with a gap in your quest for knowledge which you swallow in frustration. If you click on one of their topic questions, you may get an automatic response which informs you to expect a reply to your question within a few days.

Unfortunately, when our search for the answer is thwarted or aborted, we are not only frustrated but disappointed, dissatisfied and sometimes angry. All these emotions become buried within us. It is not surprising that there is such a high incidence of depression and anxiety in society today. People just want to be heard. Our questions are important. We are taught that in order to receive the correct answer, we need to ask the right question. It seems that asking the right question is not enough. Quite often it is about finding someone who is willing to listen.

In workplaces, employees are expected to conform to key performance indicators, health safety regulations and targeted benchmarks. But what if an employee does not fit exactly within these boundaries? They may fall short on prescribed target figures or may not be an exact match for a job description but they possess qualities that are outside the confines. Are they rewarded for their exceptional listening skills or their ability to communicate well with others? Perhaps they simply smile or spend more time with the customers. What if they can think outside the square and are capable of trouble shooting beyond the limited skills of their training? Will they gain recognition or reward?

A friend who works in retail was having a rough time at work and asked me if I would write an email to her head office recommending her for good customer service. It seems she had been bullied by colleagues who were jealous of her achieving high sales targets. Her manager had also reprimanded her for spending too much time talking to the customers. She had already discovered that spending more time listening to her customers’ needs often resulted in a sale.

When I asked one of the sales assistants for their company email address, they told me that they were not given one. All communication with head office should be done via their website. When I went onto the website there were no contact details such as an email address or phone number but only a small text box where one could post any comments. After writing a glowing report on my friend I had to cut and paste it into the text box. I assumed that her company would want to know they had such a great saleswoman but neither of us ever heard from them. I can understand that companies don’t want to receive hundreds of complaints and therefore don’t leave their contact details. But wouldn’t you think they would want to know about the accomplishments of their staff, their true assets?

In Australian schools today, student performance must fit within frameworks such as NAPLAN for measuring literacy standards. Constructed criteria levels are deemed to be what a student should be achieving at each particular age. How can we determine what are considered to be “normal” levels for students when they are in their formative years, developing and expanding their creativity. Again, shouldn’t we be more concerned about rewarding their individuality rather than striving for “normalcy”?  The evidence of depression and anxiety in schools is astounding but is a reflection of what is happening in other parts of society. It is indeed tragic for those who are young and should be focusing on enjoying fun and play.

Not everyone fits within a “normal” framework and many don’t wish to conform to these structures. Similarly, our questions don’t always match or tick the boxes. Let’s start listening to individual questions and encourage divergent thinking.

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