Is prolonged exposure to “legalese” and small-print making us more cynical, and stopping us from listening? Are we somehow unable to accept things at face value?
Whilst waiting in the passenger concourse at Euston Station last week, I heard the following announcement – “Would passengers kindly note that due to the wet weather, passenger areas might become slippery underfoot“. My immediate reaction was cynical – “I’m an adult – I know that wet floors can be slippery. They’re only saying that to protect themselves against litigation in the event that a passenger has an accident. What is the world coming to?”
But as I shook my head in irritation, I recalled a visit to a Japanese manufacturing plant during which I had witnessed the morning “team talk”. The Team Leader had gathered the team at the start of the shift and delivered a 3-minute briefing. She encouraged the team to beat the production record they had set the previous week; reminded them that quality was their individual responsibility; and finally suggested that because of the humid conditions, the floor might be slippery and that care would be needed to avoid accidents.
It never occurred to me at that time that this suggestion was anything other than sensible. It wasn’t about avoiding litigation – it was about avoiding accidents, personal injury, reduced productivity. It was a genuine reminder to take care.
So why didn’t I react in the same way at Euston Station? Why didn’t I accept the announcement positively?
Are we somehow setting the bar rather high on what we deem to be helpful, rather than legal small-print; interesting, rather than patronising?
It is time to put cynicism to one side and accept advice in the spirit with which it is offered. Giving the benefit of the doubt to the station announcer, it’s much easier to accept the reminder that wet floors can be slippery. I’m an adult – thanks for the reminder.