Pointless Appointments

So why is it that the concept of an appointment is seen differently by different people?

I believe an appointment is a specific date and time that all appropriate parties have mutually agreed to engage or participate in some activity, personal or professional.

However, as a culture we seem to have different standards of the definition based on status, perceived status or profession.

For instance, it is common to schedule an appointment with a doctor, arrive, and then wait for long periods of time, even hours. In fact, I find it rare when this is not the case. I’ll concede that problems can develop in a schedule. A planned surgery could have time-consuming complications or a true emergency patient interrupts the schedule. However, for many non-emergency specialists, their schedule is really very predictable.

Even more interesting is that most people expect this delay as part of their appointment. It has become “normal” and, even if disliked, generally accepted.

Would you repeatedly accept a one hour wait at a restaurant where you make reservations? What about an appointment to have your hair cut? Or waiting an extra hour in a theater for the movie to start?

The communication lesson in this behavior is for us to realize that “normal” or “expected” are variables. They are dependent on cultural expectations, needs and social hierarchy. Because of this, what you see as normal may not be what others see as normal. Thus, if you forget that your audience may have different expectations than you, you will probably struggle to share your message effectively.


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.