Saturday 18 August 2007

I need to talk to you

by Ronnie Apteker

With all these communications devices and with all the amazing technology we have today we still don’t know how to communicate. Actually, we are becoming worse listeners by the day. It is not easy to listen to people. It requires real time. Really listening means giving someone your full attention. And how does one pay attention with the cellphone ringing, SMS’s flying in every direction, email downloading by the truckload, and more.

But this is actually a whole separate discussion, Today I want to talk about something more curious. Every other month I bump into someone I know, either in a restaurant, or on the street, or in a shopping mall, and just about every time the conversation goes like this “I have been wanting to talk to you about something important. A big opportunity.” Now this is confusing. If they wanted to talk to me why didn’t they call me? Did they plan on bumping into me like that? If something is important to you, and if you thought I could add value to your idea, then surely you would pick up the phone. Surely you would make contact. How can you take someone seriously when you run into in the toilet for a leek, and someone there tries to talk to you, especially when you are in a hurry? And then they look at you like there is something wrong. Just about week at our offices someone walks past me in the corridor and just starts going on about something. How do they expect me to listen when I am in a hurry? How do they expect me to take them seriously when they go on how urgent and important it is? Seriously, if someone really wanted to speak to you they would make an effort.

My film making work also invites a lot of callers. At least once a week someone mails me or phones me (I am easy to find – I am in the book) and wants to talk about their movie project. Now, I understand how excited they are, how passionate they are, but that does mean much. Many people are passionate and excited. What I want to know is how they are under pressure. I want to know how much substance they have. Strength of character is more important to me than the strength of a screenplay. And they pretty much always say the same thing “Can I come see you tomorrow?” When I ask them what about they go on and on and on. It is actually quite disempowering. I then ask them to send me a short one or two paragraph description that I can read and think about. If something capture’s my imagination then I probably will look into further. But, how can I take a guy seriously that starts swearing and ranting when I ask him to send me a summary to read. The other day someone went off at me, “What’s your problem? Are you important to see me?” They call me looking for my input or help and they go off at me like that.

Yes, we have not mastered the art of communications and yet we keep inventing new ways to communicate. This is the paradox of progress at play. You have to laugh!