My Sloppy Request was Not Very Productive

Here’s a failure in what I thought was a productive conversation. I’m thinking I’ll have to train everyone I interact with about the Four Conversations. Starting with myself.

I told a person from the (radioactive) Waste Management Symposia – an annual conference where I participate and speak – that I was going to Saskatchewan to talk about radioactive waste disposal. This guy, Jason, has been in my rad-waste sessions on productive communication, so I thought we were at least sort of on the same wave-length. He emailed me back.

Jason: “Here are some fact sheets for the public on radiation cleanup issues. I’m going to update them soon”. He included them in an attachment.

Me: “Thanks very much, Jason!  I will be going to Saskatchewan the last week in May, so if you have new info I’ll keep an eye open for it.”

Jason: “Feel free to bug me if you haven’t seen anything before you go.”

Me: “OK, consider yourself bugged. I’d like an update by Friday May 8th at the latest. You know I’m the queen of productive conversation (ref. “The Four Conversations”), right? Thanks for your support on this.”

Jason: “If you’re relying on my memory, you are likely to be disappointed. So if you don’t hear from me, you may want to email me.”

Actually, I was relying on his ability to schedule a commitment, not on his memory. I had a little shot of indignation – do people not have a calendar and a pencil handy? – but then I realized we were playing tag, as in “Tag, You’re It”. Neither of us wanted to take responsibility for the follow-through.

I let it drop, as I didn’t really need an update and had plenty of other resources. He must have kept that commitment somewhere in his calendar or in-box though, because he just sent the updated fact sheets yesterday.

The conversation probably should get no more than a “C+” for productivity, because those last 3 emails weren’t necessary. I could have stopped after “Thanks very much, Jason!” and would have gotten the same result. Lesson learned.

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