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Communicate for Clarity

By Joey Havens

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Having just finished a consulting session with a C-Suite of leaders, I am reminded of how easy it is for organizations to under-communicate key messages.  So much can be lost in the interpretation as well as the importance of various communications.  Most leadership teams and organizations struggle every day with communications.  Maybe this previous blog will trigger us to remember we each have 100% responsibility when it comes to communicating.  

The rule of thumb is that we need to communicate a message six times in different ways to even hope that most people read or hear it and understand it clearly. Clarity is problematic because words have different meanings for each of us. The context in which the words are used has a big impact as well. I learned a significant lesson on communication at dinner last week. 

We were out to dinner for our daughter Haley’s birthday. As you might expect, my wife had a big bag of gifts which Haley began to open while we waited for dessert. The last one she opened was a bottle of perfume. They passed the bottle around and took the cap off, smelled it, and commented on how good it smelled. Finally, I got it and took my wife’s arm to spray a little on her so I could smell it. She snatched her arm back and said, “Don’t spray that on me.”

Communicating with great clarity, I replied, “Well if it’s so nice, why doesn’t anyone want it sprayed on them?” As I started to spray a little on my arm, she quickly snapped at me again not to spray the perfume. What was the big deal? It was just a bottle of perfume. They all started laughing at which point I knew I was missing something about this conversation. “That’s a perfume for her dog Kramer, you nut.” We all fell out laughing.

I’m not sure if I didn’t hear or understand something that was said, but I missed the message. As leaders, it’s so very easy to miss the message or to do a poor job of delivering it. It takes all of us working together to make communications work while remembering to give each other the benefit of good intentions when we feel uninformed or misunderstood. Things will smell much better if we each take 100% responsibility for communicating with clarity.

CeCe, how do I get this dog perfume off of me? 

“If you were to anticipate how strong a company’s culture needs to be to transform and thrive in the future, Joey Havens paints a beautiful horizon in his book Leading with Significance.”  Daniel Burrus  

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