“I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
– source unknown

Come, take a virtual mind stroll with me if you will (watch your step). A local eating establishment was the catalyst of the “epiphany” for today’s topic (good word – feel free to look it up (www.dictionary.com). I like the ½ soup and salad deal at this eatery. I fancy the ½ turkey bravo, but on swirled rye, and I like the low-fat turkey noodle soup (for taste more then my girlish figure). Stick with me it’s relevant! (Oh yeah, and I also order a cold bottle of root beer!)

Of course, I would never go in craving the above yummy meal combo and say, “Give me lunch!” and expect to get satisfaction…to get just what I want, just the way I want it for obvious reasons.

How often, however, do we figuratively say, “Give me lunch!” (under the guise of “Increase productivity, give me a summary, you need to communicate better, be more customer oriented, put together a report…”) and are amazed, disappointed, frustrated, mad… (not to mention behind schedule, increased defects, lost time, quality and satisfaction…) when we don’t get JUST what we had in mind.

It’s amazing the attention to detail we give our $7 food orders that we forget, underestimate or don’t know how to give in our daily communications when we have productivity, sales, relationships, happiness and health on the line. For some reason the concept that the person behind the counter has no idea just what you want unless you clearly and specifically articulate it, and the ramifications of not, are much easier to grasp than the fact that the same holds true for our employees, coworkers, family members, etc.

Give it some thought. Next time you are communicating with someone stop and ask yourself (hypothetically) first – do you know EXACTLY what you want for lunch? If so, are you asking for it clearly? (Have you gotten that this isn’t really about food?)

What now you ask? Consider the following:
• First, is it clear to YOU what you want? What do you want more (less of, differently)? I mean specifically (more customers? How many more, what kind, why?).
• How will you know exactly when you get “it”, how will others know?
• Do you know or have you put thought into (no, more thought then that) who exactly can help you get it?
• Have you written your thoughts down?
• Have you specifically and directly ASKED for it?
• Have you ASKED the person if it’s clear?
• Have you gotten other’s input or involvement? No one gets more points for doing it on their own just for doing it.

Why don’t we always clearly ask for these things?
• We often feel it’s a sign of strength and independence to complete things totally on our own. I’m guilty as charged, but I truly believe the greatest leaders and most successful people are those who know who their best resources are and tap into them!

In writing this newsletter, this very topic came up with my coach. Something that was surprisingly clear is we often hide behind subtle, less direct requests, for fear of “totally putting it out there” and the vulnerability of being very direct and declaring what is most important to us. The funny thing is in being less direct, we create what we fear.

• We assume people know what we know and think in the same way we do. Not everyone is always as continually brilliant and perceptive as you, it’s a tough job!

• We don’t always know exactly what we want.

• We like when things are difficult and frustrating? NOOO, I firmly believe the strongest motivator in any situation is to be heard and understood,, its so important but we’re not always perfect at it.

• Our advanced form of communication is supposedly what sets us apart as the most advanced form of life (which is still under debate), so it’s NOT easy! It takes commitment and practice.

• We fear asking for it and:
– Not getting it, feeling personally rejected, or
– Getting it, but then what?

Here are some last minute tips:
• We often don’t realize we’re being vague – it really helps to ask others for input and focus on which result is most important.

• When in doubt simplify your request, not because the other person is stupid (although that can’t be totally ruled out!) but because da da daaaaah not everyone thinks the same at the same time.

• Be as specific as you can, as simply as you can. (I already said it wasn’t easy!)

• Know how you’ll know when you’re there? If you aren’t sure exactly when you’ll be satisfied, chances are others are even less clear how to help you.

• Use examples or stories, (like very witty lunch stories).

• Pay attention to all cues, lots are non verbal,, if their eyes are crossed pay attention (they may not understand)

• Ask if they get it. Ask if it’s clear!! HOW SIMPLE and POWERFUL!!! Admit you aren’t always clear (GASP, a little honesty can go a really really wonderfully looooong way).

Remember, this takes focus and practice like any other skill, so go easy on yourself!