Communicating is a tricky business. Sometimes, no matter how carefully words are chosen or thoughtfully delivered, the message misses the mark.

Changing guard

There’s a new boss at the tip of the organisational pyramid and she’s breathing fresh air into our sporting organisation. With its small membership base, limited budget and thinly stretched volunteers, our sport needs all the talent and enthusiasm it can muster. The new boss brings new ideas, new energy and a new way of doing things.


Volunteers are a fickle bunch and the stalwart general manager, a true fencing tragic who lives and breathes the sport, is wary of them. He’s been around longer than most on the committee and he’s been burnt before by well-meaning amateurs who offer to help and then don’t follow through, or simply walk away mid-season.

As a result he’s reluctant to let go of any of the many, many hats he wears.

Four of the five organisational email accounts land at his door, which means enquiries and opportunities can be missed.

He’s very clever and a good administrator. He loves rules and statistics. A good database makes him purr. He can be creative, but mostly he can be relied upon to ground people in reality.

He’s run the show for so long by himself now he can hardly conceive of sharing the jobs around, insisting on doing everything himself. For all his talent and good intentions, this makes him a frustrating bottle neck to change.


As the new executive takes charge, I want to step up my contribution. There’s more of a team vibe and I can see a gaping organisational hole I can fill.

The association’s not good at keeping its members in the loop or promoting the sport. I know I could make a difference there. I’m gaining confidence in my writing and am comfortable with social media.

So I’ve presented this gift to the association, my vision for rebranding the sport with some colour and some fun.

I’ve gently asked for passwords to run social sites and more information on programs we need to sell.

I’ve started foraging in the backend of the association’s website and introduced a new email marketing system.

And I’ve created a lot of original content: articles, graphics, tweets and posts and given much thought about what and when to publish. I’ve jumped in boots and all.

But maybe I should have been clearer about my role. It’s not one I can share. While it’s great to have many authors there can only be one editor.

Mixed signals

Despite all my work on carefully chosen imagery and precisely crafted messaging, the man-with-many-hats keeps stepping on what I thought I had claimed as my turf.

On the weekend I scheduled a Facebook post, an article I’d written based on interviews and research, with an image I’d cropped and edited for maximum effect.

An hour later the Hat Wearer, perhaps inspired by my flurry of activity on social media, posted a bunch of blurry images snapped with a smartphone of a routine training session at headquarters.

It was an amateur post which served no purpose and bumped my article from the top of the feed. I was livid.

But this is only one example of a very frustrating pattern.

The email

Today I discovered changes I’d made to our website on the weekend, when I could have been reading a book and drinking wine at the farm, had been reversed.

The Hat Wearer had taken it upon himself to fix my work, thinking I must have done it by mistake.

It was a small thing, this straw, but it broke me.

The time to be blunt had arrived.

So I shot off one of those emails, you know, the ones where your fingers fly faster than your brain and you hit send without a second reading. Or even a first reading.

It bristled with umbrage and outrage, demanding respect for my time and my talents in a magnificently passive-aggressive tone.

The poor man got the picture.

He called me, all his hats in his hands, and we talked. By then I was out walking the dog, giving my fingers and weary eyes a rest, and regretting my hasty blurt.

But maybe it was a good thing.

Because we talked frankly and freely and now he understands what I’m trying to achieve and I understand why he’s reluctant to trust anyone else to care for his beloved sport.

Maybe the false starts and convoluted pathway were a necessary part of my journey.

Or maybe if I’d been clearer about the organisational role I wanted at the outset I could have avoided all this angst.

Either way, for someone who calls herself a communicator, I haven’t been doing it very well lately.

Angela Bensted Bw 1x1
Angela Bensted is a Brisbane-based freelance writer who likes to listen first and struggle with syntax later. She pitches stories to magazines and helps businesses produce compelling copy for print and online.
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