Being Understood When the Dragons are Dancing

or How I Learned to Love to Communicate

My wife and I were at a Chinese New Year’s dinner at the beginning of February. It was a wonderful dinner with dragon dancers, drummers, musicians, photo ops with politicians, and a fantastic menu.

At one point, over the noise of the crowd and music, I tried to ask her if she wanted another drink. I pulled out the drink tickets and pointed towards her empty rum and coke. I mimed “yes” and “no” by nodding shaking my head.

She nodded yes, but there was something about her facial expression that made me pause. So I bent closer to hear what she was saying. “Yes, but later please.”

“So no then.”, I stated in my best patronizing, task-oriented voice.

This was a very simple, almost intimate, communication with a woman I’ve known for over thirty years, and we mis-communicated. Then I thought about the managers and executives whom I work with every week. Executives who are trying to make significant  long-term changes to their businesses and organizations with less forethought and planning. Changes like introducing corporate performance measures and evaluations, talent reviews, strategic priorities.

Then they wonder why making those initiatives are such a struggle or just plain fail. Which costs them and the company time, money, emotional aggravation, and goodwill among their customers, employees, and shareholders. 

The lesson for me, I think, has been that I need to do a better job of helping my clients plan and execute their communications. Some of them get it and don’t need my help. Some of them need more than a little help.

In the coming days and weeks I’ll be enumerating some of the most common mistakes I see. I’ve come up with eight so far, and I’m sure you’ll let me know of others. In the meantime, I invite you to think about how you communicate. I bet you aren’t as clear and concise as you think you might be…

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