Monday, 9 July 2012

Conversation, Communication, Confrontation, Catastrophe

I travel on trains. For those of you who also travel on trains you will realise that a train can be quite the lonely and desolate tube, and you only seem to have yourself and self loathing thoughts for company. Now to get away from depression, I tend to watch other people on the train and their interactions. What struck me is people's communication skills are dreadful.

As usual I put the disclaimer on the fact that I am not exactly presidential in my communication skills, I am awkward, quiet and often lose control of my vocal chords, not exactly smashing when you want to be taken seriously. Yet I feel this gives me a good insight into people's shit chat.
So to set the scene I saw, which is an incredibly regular occurrence within all trains I have travelled on, the conductor arguing with a passenger over a rail journey that cost £3.30.
Now this, in my head, is how I feel the conversation could have gone:
Passenger: "Can I use this card to pay my fare?"
Conductor: "I'm sorry but unfortunately we can't take that type of card, we can only take cards with chips in.Do you have another way to pay?"
Passenger: "Oh right, sorry, erm no I don't"
Conductor; "That's no problem miss, just fill out this form, and send a cheque through the post within in six days.May I check your ID to verify your details?"
Passenger: "Thank you, yes that is no problem. Can I borrow your pen please?"
A lovely conversation I am sure you will agree. Yet unfortunately what I was witness to was a conversation which drew a strong resemblance to a mong bashing his head of a door handle until he knocks himself out, or the handle falls off. Whichever happens first.
Passenger: "Can I use this card to pay my fare?"
Conductor: "That's not a debit card."
Passenger: "Erm well it is."
Conductor: "No it's not. That is not a debit card. Have you got any money?"
Passenger: "It is a debit card. It has debit written on the card."
Conductor: "It isn't now pay with sumat else, love."
Passenger: "I only have this. You are speaking to me in an incredibly rude way."
Conductor: "Give us your ID then."
Passenger: "No why do you want that?"
Conductor: "Fill this form out and then I need your ID to prove you are not lying."
Passenger:" Why am I filling the form out? I have got a fucking debit card!"
And it went on, the voices became louder and more heated, until it got sorted, some how.
Yet this all could be avoided if you simply constructed their sentences in a different way, and didn't go straight into a confrontational manner. 
I see this everyday in my job, whether it be customer to colleague, colleague to colleague, or customer to customer. There are even managers employed by the major high street chain I work for, who not only do they not understand how to talk to staff without it being in a patronising tone of voice, they can barely even read 'Chicken Teriyaki' in a team meeting. The mind boggles. 
However, maybe confrontation is the natural response of the everyday cretin, panicked, stressed, and stupid. He goes into fight or flight way before it is needed.
Now I am not naive enough to say that there shouldn't be confrontation, everyone should be nice. However, choose the fucking battles, a woman with the wrong payment card is not a fight worth having, a fight worth having is maybe that bully at school, your wife who cheats on your with Derek the bus conductor, or maybe even that level 22 on World of Warcraft that you just can't kill, stupid Yankee cunt.
But do me a favour, human beings, if you don't know each other, if you are given no reason for confrontation, I few calmer steps would be nice. These steps are not for you or the person you are talking to; this is for the people in the surrounding area, who don't want to listen to your shit. Conversation, communication, confrontation, catastrophe, is the way it normally it goes, when maybe the first two would do.
Is that OK? Or have I not explained myself correctly?

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