Saturday, November 26, 2011

Relaying information: Be mindful of the how and when

Recently, we had a situation in my community where an 18 year old was killed in a car accident. The fast means of today’s communication-cell phone, text, e-mail and twitter-presented new challenges in distributing factual information in a timely manner.

We wanted to tell our son, since this was his friend, versus getting a text message or seeing it on Facebook. Since the accident took place during school hours, we did have the option of having him taken from class. Ultimately, we sent him a text (since he can’t use his cell phone at school) and told him to call home.

Since we were able to talk to him, we made sure he wasn’t driving before we relayed the information and provided him with facts, versus rumors that were swirling around. Ideally, we would have preferred to tell him face to face, but given the circumstances, particularly the rapid way information is now spread in this digital age, particularly among teens, this was the best we could do.

Several years ago, a friend called to learn about test results while driving. The information was not good. Fortunately, the person was not alone in the car, and the passenger had the presence of mine to tell them to pull over.

In the past week, we learned that a friend is very ill. Again, the e-mails, texts etc. are flying. Factual information is needed and a tweet isn’t necessarily the best way to distribute it.

Below are some ways to consider relaying information in our digital age.

• When relaying difficult information, try to do it in person if possible. If you have to call, start by asking where and what the person is doing. If they are driving, ask them to pull over or call when they have reached their destination. Be mindful that newer cars are equipped with speakerphones. The information you may be relaying may be broadcast to everyone in the car. Check to see who is with them.

• If the person is not available when you call, leave a message asking them to call you as soon as possible. When they do call, ask them where they are.

• When making calls about a family or friend’s situation, or your test results, do not do it when you are driving, operating equipment or doing something, which if distracted, could cause problems.

• Take advantage of the various free websites like Cares Pages, CaringBridge and my favorite Lotsa Helping Hands as a way to keep family and close friends aware of the situation. It’s easier to set up a Cares Page or CaringBridge initially. The down side is that once a person has the password to the site, they can forward that to anyone they choose. Lotsa Helping Hands is a bit more involved, since it requires a site manager to approve those who wish to be members.

• Check out the previous post on Communications

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