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Readers: Open communication is good for home as well as office
I wrote that I've been fortunate during my career to work with people who weren't afraid of open communication, and I believe frank conversations create a better office atmosphere. - photo by Greg Kratz
After a couple of months that have included many travels, altered schedules and great sadness over the losses of a family member and a friend, I'm glad to be getting back to something of a normal routine.

That will really kick in this week when my children return to school. We'll once again figure out who needs to be where at what time, and before you know it, we'll be fully in the swing of things.

That's not to say they're thrilled that summer is over. They've complained that it flew by much too quickly this year, and I have to agree with that.

At the same time, I'm always a bit gleeful when they have to return to their version of the daily grind. After all, working stiffs like me don't get that nice summer break, right?

As I considered this return to our Kratz-y version of normalcy, I decided that a good way to normalize my column would be to check in with readers' reactions to some of the things I've written during the last few months.

For example, several readers responded to a column last month that talked about a study conducted by Utah-based VitalSmarts. It found that 56 percent of respondents said they had safeguarded secrets or grievances at work for more than a year. Usually they did so because they focused "on the immediate risks involved in speaking up while ignoring the certain and ongoing costs of not speaking up," according to a press release about the study.

I wrote that I've been fortunate during my career to work with people who weren't afraid of open communication, and I believe frank conversations create a better office atmosphere.

Several readers agreed. One, leaving a comment online, wrote that such communication is important anywhere, "assuming we're talking about an environment with people who cherish the truth and are mature enough to seek truth even when it is perceived as difficult or painful to themselves."

This reader wrote that the low regard for truth, or even the fear of it, has been the cause of repression that has been symptomatic of dictatorships through the years.

"When truth is the enemy, then open dialogue is one of the first victims," he wrote.

Another reader wrote me an email to say open dialogue is also vital in relationships at home.

"(Your article) had some very sound advice for marriage applications, when you need help fixing bad communication problems, and being able to speak to your spouse with open, honest communication that has not been part of your marriage, because you don't want to hurt your spouse's feelings," this reader commented.

"I have, over the years, tried to be helpful and comforting so that it would guide my spouse to be a better person. Except as it turned out it did exactly the opposite and now I have to go through the strenuous process of starting to change things for the better so I can get myself back. Thanks for the article."

That is an excellent point. I know I could do a better job of communicating with my wife. When our conversations are the most open and honest, we tend to be the closest to each other.

Thanks, dear reader, for your comment, and I hope you succeed in changing things for the better.

I also received a few reactions to my recent column on the importance of self-confidence at work, especially when a person is asking for a raise.

As part of that piece, I stressed the need to have good comparative salary figures available when making your argument. One reader agreed that is important, but said in an online comment that it's not always easy to find such information.

"In my field there are probably only at most a few hundred in all of the Detroit metro area, and I've never seen any sort of reliable salary info," he wrote. "My first job in the area, I was massively underpaid but didn't know it. I mean, when I named the salary I wanted they gave it to me without any haggling which, to me, indicated I'd lowballed myself.

"A couple years later, a recruiter asked me what I made, and when I told him he did one of those surprised, shocked laugh things. I was making about two-thirds of what I should. So, ask for what you want, not what you think you can get. Even if they won't negotiate on salary, many companies are willing to toss in extra vacation days."

Asking for what you want requires that self-confidence I mentioned, but it's definitely the way to go.

Finally, many people reached out to me after reading last week's column about the death of my best friend from my school years, Mike Avok.

I appreciate your sympathy and support. I have been truly touched by all you had to say, and I thank you.

I was also glad that many people said I had inspired them to reach out to an old friend and try to re-establish contact.

One reader wrote in an email that he could relate to my experience.

"Your mutual friendship was still there, it was just latent," he wrote. "With the advent of the Internet, I tried tracking down a lot of old college and (high school) friends dozens for a couple of years, with success in every attempt, surprisingly. One day I realized that not one of them had tracked me down.

"I didn't have mutual friends, just knew a lot of good people who felt some need to graciously be tolerant of my association with them. Happy with my life and how it's all turned out just the same, and for them and theirs as well.

"Most of the time it's what we extend (to) others, not what we get back."

I couldn't express the importance of making connections any better than that. And I know Mike would agree.
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