02 April 2006

communication breakdown

The difficulties some of us find in relating to our fellow humans arise in different situations. For a few years I was a consul at Australian diplomatic missions and I used to hate it. Never knowing what the problem was going to be - only knowing it was going to be a problem - I used to really fear it when a potential consular case lobbed in the door. I always used to think that my colleagues who professed great enjoyment of this particular task were having a lend, if not of me then of themselves.

I simply couldn't understand it, even though by comparison with some mates I had it quite easy - most places I was in were not on the usual tourist routes and so I didn't have a nonstop stream of consular problems. Unlike, for example, a couple of mates who did stints in Bangkok. Whenever I went to visit them while on holidays, I inevitably found myself going to the police station with one of them on a Saturday night while they dealt with the latest drug arrest. That said, I did have a couple of nasty-ish cases.

It has only been recently that I've come to reflect on those days (well, years..) with a bit more affection. The reason, I think, is that I used to get immediate feedback on the job I was doing. If I did something that solved the problem I got instant, and sometimes quite effusive - thanks. If I couldn't deliver what was asked, regardless of whether that request was doable, reasonable or even legal, then I still had a problem.

In more recent years I've done types of work where I'm remote from the impact of the task, in patricular remote from the effect it might have on any human being (aside from other disillusioned souls who might read it, whether voluntarily or by virtue of their own responsibilities). It took me some years to get used to this and then I got too used to it. I'm now back working in an area delivering services direct to people and it's much more rewarding. That said, it's also a more positive environment, where usually the task is to help someone do better, rather than fix some particular nasty impediment (although I get those, too).

It would have been good at the time to have understood what was going on, to have reflected on why I felt the way I did. I see that ability to try and learn beyond the immediate experience in many younger people I now work with. Maybe it's because the notion of career is no more (consular service was certainly a career in those days), so young people need to learn from their experiences in as many ways as they can, because they don't know how that experience might be applied later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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