The other day, the American School in Japan (ASIJ), where my son is in 8th Grade, sent out an email reminder to ask parents to e-sign a permission slip for the kids to stay after school to go to the high school football game. It’s a K-12 school, and once or twice a semester, the games are played on a Friday night under the lights instead of on Saturday morning, and the PTA makes a night of it with concessions, games for kids, etc. However, ASIJ is in Chofu, about an hour outside of Central Tokyo, so transportation is always an issue. It happens to be the night of the middle school dance, and normally because of the distance, dances are held from 4:30-6:30 so the kids take a late bus home. The school was asking middle school parents to sign that they are responsible for their own kids at game-time, after the dance, and will get them home safely. If the parent isn’t going to be there, he or she has to list who exactly is responsible for the child. Very American-style safety-conscious. My mother would be so proud.
Both parents get this particular email. When it came into my in-box, I ignored it because I knew I had already signed the permission slip for Bailey. My husband, Marc, forwarded it to me asking, “Did you do this?”
My response, in my mind, was a little snarky: “What do you think?”
Well, I’m generally pretty on top of the Weinstein schedule and work very hard to make sure permission slips and things aren’t lost in flux. I’m not perfect and I make plenty of mistakes, but I’m very detail oriented and I have a good record. To me, that was already ticked off the list. Been there, done that.
That wasn’t how Marc “heard” the message though. He “heard” me asking his opinion on whether or not Bailey should go to the game and IF we should sign the permission. “What do you think? (About Bailey doing this event?)
So Marc’s response was: “I thought he was intending to do this, no?”
I was astonished. He totally misunderstood me, and for a minute, I didn’t understand what he meant, either. I wrote back: “You loony – you asked if I did this and I asked, what do you think – meaning do you think I did it? Well of course I already did it! There was no harm in doing it. If he changed his mind, he could get on the late bus after the dance. But I’m sure he wants to stay. We’ll drive out there to be there before 7. The dance ends at 6:45, so we should probably be there before that so we’re officially responsible for him.”
That’s when Marc realized the miscommunication: “That’s the problem with email. When I read it, I heard you asking it as, “do you think we should let him stay” as opposed to, “duh, of course I already did it.”
That’s when I responded, “Yes, hearing is pretty lousy via email, I agree.”
Marc’s response, knowing me very well indeed, “Sounds like a blog post.”
We are lucky, Marc and I, that we have become pretty adept over the years at clearing up miscommunications. People get in trouble for what they say via email all the time, partly because the recipient can’t hear the intended innuendo, tone of voice, or facial expression. I’m sure when phones were first invented people had miscommunications all the time. Now we have a thousand different ways to communicate and just as many ways to MIScommunicate. People get knots in their knickers about this all the time when a simple, “what do you mean?” type of question would be indicated. It’s not that hard. Just tell people that you have trouble hearing them when they email.
We are going to enjoy that football game on Friday!