Happy New Year. This year’s quick tips will focus on improving your presence in a hybrid environment beginning with how to make eye contact with one or one thousand.
The first thing she said when she called me was “you can’t tell anyone I told you this.” The secret was that a friend in our circle told her in confidence he is not vaccinated.
She was stunned and upset because he is a high-profile executive who spends several days a month traveling on planes to assorted locations where he interacts with many people. His wife, who is vaccinated, said he’s his own person and can make his own choices and didn’t seem to understand why it mattered if people around him were vaccinated.
In a recent Washington Post opinion piece Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting public health professor at George Washington University, and Sam Wang, a professor of neuroscience at Princeton University, compared being unvaccinated in public to drunken driving.
The professors wrote. “Consider the analogy: three out of every eight people killed are not the intoxicated driver, but their passengers or people in other vehicles. Similarly, with COVID-19, the risk is borne not only by the person making the decision but also by others who cross their path.”
Given the great vaccine divide, you may not agree with the analogy and I’m not writing to suggest who is right and who is wrong. Rather, because this particular person told our friend he isn’t vaccinated, he put her in an awkward position.
In a few weeks, she’s having a party and he’s invited. She believes everyone else attending is vaccinated and asked me if I thought it was still okay to have him over. I told her that is her call. She asked me what I would do if it was my house and without hesitation I said, I would not have him at my house and here’s why.
If other vaccinated guests knew he was not vaccinated, they may choose not to come. Some are immuno-compromised and don’t develop immunity even when vaccinated. Others, like me, have elderly parents, some in long term care settings who are more vulnerable even when vaccinated. Her friend could be completely asymptomatic but positive which means he can transmit the disease to others. Medical experts say because vaccines are not 100% effective, not only would he pose a great risk to unvaccinated people, but he would be a potential threat to those who are vaccinated as well.
Here’s the awkward part. He told her not to tell anyone, even though she told me and made me promise not to reveal his identity. If she blabs, she betrays his confidence and risks their friendship. At the same time, if those attending her party knew that she knew and didn’t tell them so they could decide for themselves whether to attend, they would be furious. If he happened to be asymptomatic and someone got sick after being around him, they would blame her. They would likely see it as a betrayal and her friendships with these people could end as well.
This situation reminds me of when I was a journalist covering the news. When a predicament surfaced, we always asked two questions:
If a company knew something was amiss and didn’t act swiftly, public perception usually turned against them. I believe the same four principles of crisis communication apply to many personal situations.
Back to my friend. She’s very torn between betraying a secret and not sharing that secret information which could negatively impact her other friends. She called again and asked me if it was me, would I betray my friend’s secret? I told her that’s not for me to answer, but I did tell her this.
Imagine a best and worst case scenario. If your unvaccinated friend found out you blabbed, what would you say to him? If your guests found out you didn’t tell them and allow them to make their own decisions, how would you explain your actions to them? If one or both parties stopped talking to you, how would you feel?
I suggested that she consider uninviting him and telling him why. That way, she can keep his secret. Finally, I told her if she doesn’t want to do that, she can always take the easy way out and cancel the party.
The 27-year-old refrigerator/freezer in our garage started leaking. Given it’s an extra appliance we’re fortunate to have and we don’t want to fork over a lot of money to buy a new one, we called our repair man. He said it can be fixed. It needs freon which is a lot cheaper than buying a new refrigerator. Upon further inspection, he says it also needs new door hinges which is why the freezer door kept opening turning our frozen food into mush. The sticker price to fix this antique was getting higher and higher, so we decided to look for a new one.
Easier said than done. For starters, thanks to supply chain shortages, very little is available. Take your pick: Costco, Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, Best Buy and private dealers are all out. Unless of course you want to spend a large mortgage payment. Those products seem to be more available.
When I finally did find a reasonably priced refrigerator that was actually in stock, it turns out it doesn’t come with handles. What? That’s what I exclaimed. We’re not talking about recessed handles. The manufacturer literally charges you extra for door handles. I wondered it if came with shelves. It did. But when you add the cost of handles, shipping, taxes and few other extras, you’d be better off to spend a mortgage payment and get one that comes with everything.
This supply chain mess is a real headache for consumers. Most of us have felt it one way or another. My girlfriend has been waiting nine months for a new dishwasher. In the heat of the summer when people’s air conditioners broke, they couldn’t find parts to repair them much less get new ones. The long-awaited new Apple I-phones are delayed thanks to a global chip shortage. Like when the pandemic started, my husband and I couldn’t find paper towels at the supermarket this week. Perhaps in some cases some luxuries can wait. But diapers, baby formula, medical supplies and lifesaving medications cannot.
An article in Economy reports sixty percent of U.S. adults say they haven’t been able to get a product they wanted in the past two months and nearly the same number of consumers say they’ve experienced significant delays in receiving products.
So, what’s going on? There have been endless stories explaining how the pandemic has impacted supply chains around the world. Some of these stories are very well done. Many however are overly complicated, diving into too much detail and industry jargon for the average person to fully understand. They use words like shifting bottlenecks, multi-tiered chains and scales and scopes.
As a former journalist who now helps companies and spokespeople make sense of information for others, I decided to give it a crack.
When COVID first forced us indoors, we had no idea how long we’d be stuck at home. Many of us panicked and stocked up on multiple supplies. Companies also stockpiled which depleted inventories and caused shortages. Now, nineteen months later, truckers, farmers and manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the demand. But it’s more complicated than that.
Think of it this way. If you order a new television, the parts to make that television may come from multiple countries. If the countries don’t have what they need to put those televisions together, production slows or even stops, and everything backs up. It’s like standing in line at the store. If you’re in line and three of five cashiers walk out, you’re going to be lined up much longer than you anticipated.
As explained in Forbes, sometimes it’s humans that are missing like I just described. Over four-million people reportedly walked off their jobs this past August. Other times, it’s a physical problem. Steve Wolf, a distribution consumer products expert told me it’s a domino effect involving multiple factors:
Simply put, all of this has led to a shipping slowdown which has held up our appliances, electronics, raw materials and foods. Lumber needed to build houses is in short supply and wood used to make paper products like toilet paper and paper towels was scarce for a while prompting hoarding and price gauging. Because supply and demand are a bit out of whack, in some cases manufacturers are now paying higher prices to get what they need and they’re passing those costs onto us.
How long this crunch will last is uncertain. Some say we’ll be dealing with it for another six months. Steve Wolf doesn’t see a resolution for at least a year.
In a world that has become so politically divided where many of us can’t see eye-to-eye, one thing seems certain. From computer chips to coffee to cell phones to some of our basic everyday needs, we’ve all been cast in the same play. If one of us can’t perform, the play is in jeopardy. Yet, like cogs in a wheel when we communicate like a well-rehearsed troupe, we’re like a fine-tuned production that performs well together, and everything falls into place.
Karen Friedman Enterprises helps professionals combine style and expertise to better engage, command attention, minimize mistakes, convey vision and project leadership presence when communicating with key listeners and decision makers.