Is it our biggest problem that people don’t read?

One tech professional once unloaded their frustration to me about the fact that even though they write very precise instructions, send them to everyone and communicate all they can, finally people simply do not read them. They looked me in the eye and cried out with irritation, “Elisa, the biggest communication problem this organisation has is that people simply do not read.”

I understand this frustration extremely well, because in my communications and marketing work, I’ve also found myself getting frustrated time and time again that people don’t read. I’ve created the content with care, precision and love, and the other person doesn’t even bother to open it. And if they do open it, they just skim it through and then do whatever.

During my life, I’ve wondered many times what is the matter with people when they don’t act as I’d like them to. But that’s the thing. I’ve been focusing on what I want and how I want other people to act.

Is it a problem or is it just the reality?

If we actually know that people simply don’t read, is that then a problem? Or is it actually just the reality that we should adjust to? Is it useful to try to fight against the fact that people don’t read? If we already know that it is our biggest problem, should we stop to consider it and ask: are our own methods perhaps wrong, or what else could we do about this issue?

Sometimes we get frustrated when the world doesn’t work as we’d like it to. But if you cannot change how the world works, getting frustrated doesn’t really help. If we continue doing the same thing despite it failing every time, are our own actions approaching insanity?

If I accept that people don’t read, or at least don’t read the sort of messages that I usually write, can I think up a different communication channel, use another format or perhaps alter the content and tone of my message? Can I ask the recipients why they don’t read and how I could get them to do so?

You rarely get anywhere by opposing reality

Accepting how things are is often considered the first step to resolving an issue. Whether we’re talking about the responsibility process, Alcoholics Anonymous or acceptance and commitment therapy, all of these processes begin by accepting things as they are. We cannot change the world, things or ourselves if we don’t first acknowledge how things are right now. And we won’t come up with as ingenious a solution if we don’t consider what will work for people and the world.

So we can take a breath and accept that people don’t read. Or at least that they don’t always read the message that I have written for my own purposes and sent to them through a channel that best serves me. Would they read it if I wrote it differently or sent it some other way? Or should I consider alternative ways to get the same message through?

If I accept that this is how the reality is right now, I’ll no longer try to attack it with a sword while astride a donkey. I might not like how things are, but at least I won’t be stumbling over the same problem time and time again. I’m one step closer to the solution when I stop stubbornly demanding that the world bend to my will.

Acceptance doesn’t mean submission or not trying to do anything about an issue. Quite the contrary. Acceptance is often the key to being able to finally change things in the direction you want to change them.

What frustrating thing do you oppose? What would happen if you accepted it?

TL;DR: Accept the reality as it is

  • If something hasn’t worked the way you want it to until now, it probably won’t work in the future.
  • Accept the reality as it is.
    • You don’t have to like the current state of things.
    • You cannot change something if you don’t know or accept the way it is right now.
  • Alter your own behaviour instead of waiting for the world to change.

Or what do you think?

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