Saturday, March 21, 2009

A note to Sandra Rogers

The following is an email I received today:

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From: "Sandra Rogers, International Affairs VP"
To: Blaine
Sent: Thursday, March 19, 2009 6:03:33 PM
Subject: [*] Language Skills Survey


Dear Blaine:

The Brigham Young University student body is unique in many ways, particularly in our experience with other cultures and languages, as well as our appreciation of multi-cultural diversity. In the past, information about our students’ language skills has been useful in attracting employment recruiters, securing jobs for students and communicating positive information about the university.

We are requesting your assistance with a short 5-7 minute survey that will help us understand and quantify the experiences of BYU students. We NEED all students to fill out the survey, regardless of your current multi-cultural or language experiences.

Your identification will be deleted prior to data analysis and reporting, so please feel free to give us your honest and candid opinions. If you begin the survey and run out of time, please click the stop button. When you are ready to restart the survey, simply reclick on the link below and you will be returned to where you left off. If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Eric Jenson at eric.jenson@byu.edu



Sincerely,



Sandra Rogers

International Affairs Vice President



Click here to begin the survey




Mac users paste the following url in your browser http://axt.byu.edu/mrIWeb/mrIWeb.dll?I.Project=LANGSKILL&id=G333



(This message was sent to multiple recipients from Institutional Assessment and Analysis as authorized by Danny Olsen, Director. No patron will send bulk, unsolicited electronic messages unless expressly authorized)

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No big deal, right? Here's the email I was inclined to send as a response, but didn't (for reasons articulated within the email).

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----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Blaine D. Hone
To: Blaine USA
Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 12:32:36 AM
Subject: Re: [*] Language Skills Survey


Dear Sandra,

Thanks for the survey opportunity. I am interested in benefiting BYU by sharing whatever personal information I can. As I am certain you are concerned with effective communication (as evidenced by some of the content of the survey), I thought you might want to know how this message is making some students feel (. . .at least me; and I don't perceive myself as being radically different from "normal"). [I'm sure some of the blog readers might beg to differ here, of course]

My feedback is simply this: I take issue with the big bold phrase "We NEED all students to fill out the survey (etc.). . ." Reading it, I feel as though I'm somehow required to complete the survey, or that you might seek to coerce cooperation should I opt not to complete it. I, consequently, read into your message a sense of uncomfortable pressure and manipulation--neither of which are appreciated in a student's already "stressful enough" life. Thanks for your consideration.

. . . Here I've read through the above paragraph, and can't help but feel like I'm (quite ironically and hypocritically) coming off as a jerk. Part of me says the best approach would be to kindly fill out the survey (or not, if I don't care to), and not pay any further concern to the manner in which my cooperation was requested. The fact that I'm actually sending you this note is evidence that I'm acting in interest of 'the other' side of me--the one that tells me that if I'm truly interested in BYU's being the best it can be, I'll give constructive feedback to BYU faculty and staff when I'm in a position to do so.

One final thought: I fully acknowledge that how I FEEL about your request is entirely my own responsibility. I recently read somewhere (I believe it was in "Getting to Yes" by Fisher and Ury) that a person will find he is much happier, and that all his negotiations in life will go much smoother if he will but choose to take communications at their best possible meaning, as opposed to their worst. To respond at all to your email would constitute my disregarding this advice. I choose better.

Sincerely,

Blaine D. Hone

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I ended the email abruptly because it was there that I came to the realization that out of interest in my own growth, I would be better served by NOT sending the email.

Out of interest in who the unknowing non-recepient of my response would have been, I googled 'Sandra Rogers BYU'. I found this photo:



I did a search on BYU's website and found that Sandra Rogers has been working for BYU sine 1980 (if I recall what I read correctly). She was Dean of the Nursing School at BYU until 2008, when she was made vice president of the international department--the office from which she wrote me this week. From her bio, she seems like she's probably a very well-meaning person. She has served humanitarian aid missions (or maybe it was just one), and she's been involved in humanitarian aid efforts in a variety of different countries. She has spoken on faith and hope and the likes at conferences. I can only assume there's a variety of other great works she has done (and continues to do) that make her an absolutely 'salt of the earth' kind of gal.

My point: I'm fairly confident that no threat or affront in any form was meant by her email. What a silly mistake it would have been on my part to assume there was one, and react accordingly. . . .not because I think Sandra Rogers would have been permanently scarred or in some other way hurt by my comment (on the contrary, everything I know about her--which is admittadly very little--tells me she's probably the type of person who would GENUINELY appreciate knowing a way in which she might improve the effects of her communications). No, the mistake would have been for me to act on an assumption that a certain communication was intended a certain way. I think I make this mistake too often, and I hope to "choose better" more often.

For what it's worth. . . I appreciate the lesson I learned tonight from Sandra Rogers.

7 comments:

Wade Hone said...

hey, when Sandra does a search, and her name comes up in this blog, and she come's here and reads this, and then if she comments, will you, and (and didn't really fit there, but I had three that lined up perfectly in this little box I'm typing in so I made the fourth one.. then my mind did this tangent that I'm writing about.. this is what happens when I get very very tired... and the funny thing, is that I think every thing I am saying is so absolutly hnilairous, yet, I know.. from past experiance that it is not. and back to our story...)

so when she read's then comments on this blog, will you call me so I can read what she said, I'm very interested.

Also, I love your comments... I didn't know there was a book about it, but it's totally a philosophy that I try to live by. the 'frankle philosophy' that the thing that I have the most control over in life is my reaction to any action.

Lhone said...

Wade, you are as 'out there' as Blaine is. (I'm referring, of course to your "tangent".)

I can't believe Blaine would actually write that kind of an email, but then again, I don't know WHY I can't believe he would. Its the kind of tired musings he finds at times. Apparently, it runs in the family. You guys crack me up. And, Blaine... I'm proud of you for not sending the email. I mean, really? Seriously? All students... oh no!!! We wouldn't want a SCHOOL asking ALL students to do something. Ok, Maybe as a teacher I can just see her point about making it a point being that no one would really want to respond unless they felt like it was necessary or required. but, did you respond to the survey?

Blaineusa said...

Regarding whether or not I responded to the survey, my answer is this: I care about the welfare of my educational institution enough to take action necessary to contribute to BYU's success where I can (including random surveys).

Yet, regarding what Sandra Rogers thinks she NEEDS every student to do: I don't give a flying rip! . . . no matter how nice a person she may be.

Heather said...

wow, wow

Blaineusa said...

Yeah. . . I know. . . it came off too harsh, didn't it. Here I am fighting that whole "jerk" thing again.

NR said...

I was google searching for Dr. Roger's contact info when I came across your blog. I am new to Utah and am amazed at what seems to be a Utah culture/habit behavior demonstrated in your blog, that of taking offence when none was intended. It seems to be sport here in Utah to read offence into everything. Maybe I feel this way because I have witnessed it several times in the past two weeks while observing interpersonal relationships among Utahns, each time being a different individual & in a variety of situations. Any idea why this is such a problem here? Maybe living at this high altitude gives people very thin skins. I've always lived at sea level so that could be why I have never seen this behavior in so many adults.

BlaineUSA said...

Hi NR,

I liked your comment so much, I had to do a full post about it:

http://blaineusa.blogspot.com/2013/11/being-thin-skinned-as-form-of-criticism.html