Monday, February 06, 2012

One Little G

"There was definitely some miscommunication." -Alan Trammell

So there I was, communicating via email to several people. The intent was to place a young man in touch with several people in hopes of helping him find a new job. The plan seemed simple enough. I would send the email out to many people asking them to respond with any assistance to myself and this young man.

Fairly quickly I had four responses to myself and the other man. Feeling happy enough with the results that quickly, that night I went to bed. Shortly after getting into bed (U.S. east coast time), I received a phone call from another man out in California. It just so happened that he had the same name as the person I was helping.


The man was nice and he was calling to inform me that he was receiving emails regarding potential jobs. He was actually very nice about it and the concern he showed to ensure the emails got to the proper person; to say the least, it was refreshing.

I apologized with my best manners and set off the next morning to understand and correct the error. It didn't take me long to figure out that I had left the letter 'g' out of the email address. Both men had the same name, used the same mail service but the man I really needed to see the emails used his middle name initial in the email address.

One little 'g' and I had mis-communicated with many, many people. A common mistake and this time easily corrected. Yet we all understand how miscommunication in business, in relationships and in everyday life can create havoc.

So how can you avoid miscommunication? It isn't easy and the easiest way is to not communicate with anyone. But life is meant to be a big conversation. It is meant to be interactive with other people. So to help you avoid some of the communication missteps, here are some pointers.

- Manage expectations; every discussion, every meeting, every connection is unique. We can certainly learn from our experiences in similar situations, but it is important to understand that this time things can and probably will be different.

- Attention needs to be given to non-verbal signs such as the tone of voice or the body language of the other person. Many times words do not tell the entire story. So watch the posture and facial expressions being communicated by yourself and back to you.

- Learn something, research and learn everything you can about the other person if that is what it takes. This works especially well in business if done prior to meeting with them. the more you know, the better you will understand how to communicate with them.

- Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you don't understand, ask. Don't move forward based on wrong assumptions. Ask now, be clear and things will progress in a much better way.

- When communicating, listen carefully. Pay attention to what the other person is saying and take notes if necessary. During long meetings or conversations, the mind has a way of forgetting or "mis-remembering" the details. Repeat what is is you understand back to the other person, sometimes placing what they said into your own words. Many times we interpret words differently from what was actually meant.

- Rid yourself of preconceptions prior to ever starting a conversation. It is very easy to "jump to conclusions" about a person or subject that is going to be discussed. Even if you have a real good idea, try to put any feelings until you can be confirmed. Having preconceived notions can keep you from understanding what is really going on.

- Along with preconceptions, be open to new ideas. You may very well be the expert, but even experts can sometimes learn from others. Simply be willing to learn new things.

- Avoid emotional words, think diplomatically as well and as often as you can. Some words that you might use are just too emotionally charged to have any place certain conversations. Which also means to avoid communicating at all (or very little) when you’re upset. When we are angry or hurt, it simply is not a good time to talk with a client or send an email.

- Be understanding of the other person, the situation and the subject being discussed. In life, sooner or later you’ll probably be called in to fix somebody else’s mistake. We all make mistakes, including you and me, so don't immediately start criticizing.

- Of course you should always check for typos and grammatical errors when writing. Simple grammar and typos can cause others to misunderstand you. It can make a huge difference by misplacing a decimal point when $1000 becomes $10.00.

Even missing one little "g" can make a difference. So think about how you communicate with others and stay inspired my friends.

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