First, I was reminded by a friend how differently two people can recall a verbal exchange that simply did not quite rise to the necessary level for communicating.  Ugh.  Here we both were after some time: one still wondering what was meant by the words he heard and the other not wondering at all about the exchange, because he knew what he meant when he spoke.


Next there was an episode of two friends tackling a small household project: one person ready to jump in and get started and the other unwilling to dive in until there was a mutually understood plan for the work.  These two people know about this difference in approach, but that doesn’t make the necessary conversation easy.  Communication does not occur and frustration sets in.


Last, consider this quote, “If your people aren’t informed by you, there’s a good chance they’ll be misinformed by others,” fromPatty McCord’s book, Powerful – Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility.  I have not read this book.  For purposes of this writing, I would hope the author raises the possibility that misinforming may in fact come from self.


This idea is not new, but it surely is important.  That is, communication typically requires conversation: all parties willing to get out of their own heads (i.e., what we “know” we mean) and invite other participants to join in understanding. It’s in fact why great authors need great editors.  Editors help question and clarify what an author means.


For example, as a leader of a project team, give the essential elements of a new project and then stop telling (i.e., talking).  Ask your team:


  • What have I not shared that would be helpful for you to know before we begin this work?
  • How might this work plan be improved from your perspectives?
  • What suggestions do you have to break the project into meaningful parts?
  • When does it make sense to bring the whole team together for status reporting?
  • If you have questions or need tools or information, do you know what resources are available?


In other words, remind yourself that telling people what you know, even as the leader of a team, is likely not sufficient verbal activity.  If communication is indeed the experience of all participants getting all of the information they need for understanding and engagement, we must work to achieve it. Our teams, as well as our families and friends, will be better for that work.

In response to questions about a favorite activity, I have told others that one of the best things about scuba diving is the peacefulness of it.  One plans the travel and packs the luggage.  Once there, one endures the hauling, checking, donning gear and the entry itself.  Then, the reward – the gift – is immediate.


For the duration of that dive, there is no telephone, computer or other electronic noise.  There will be no loud voices, no incivility, no horn honks or flashing billboards.  There won’t even be a to-do list, because there won’t be a desk or work station.  Bliss!


At favorite sites, one is immediately overwhelmed by beauty and color, by the genuine fascination of variety and even humor before one’s eyes.  It becomes obvious that the surface we all see when looking at the ocean contains under it all, more color and life and natural behaviors than any man-made facility on land.  One learns that taking an electronic-free vacation is indeed as wonder-ful and revitalizing as the experts say it can be.


This author argues that simply making time to notice and appreciate a quiet moment or a natural landscape can be refreshing and revitalizing as well.


I suggest, “just do it:”

  • Enjoy a walk or simply sit in a park, leaving your favorite device behind.
  • Create time|space, not responding to calls or messages after a particular time – or even for a whole day.
  • Let yourself dream what it might be like to be surrounded by quiet.


If you’re an introvert, these ideas may naturally suit you and energize you, stimulating your creativity.


If you’re an extrovert, these ideas may energize you as you get creative when sharing them with others at your next opportunity.

Published statements or even correlations can be found and described  to support nearly any perspective.  It’s true that even a broken clock may be right twice a day.


Take the oft-recommended method of providing negative feedback “sandwiched” between presumably positive statements that are too often made-up or insincere.  Call the result a praise or a crap sandwich: either way it is wrong.


In an earlier writing here (“Candor in Action” March 23, 2016) the warm glow of candor was suggested as the ideal for building a team and organization.


Enter Caroline Webb.  In her 2016 book, How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavior Science to Transform Your Working Life, Ms Webb shares relevant research findings:


It turns out that research says our human brains guard against not only physical threats but also threats to our social standing, belonging, competence, etc.  Hearing negative statements about our selves or our work triggers our defenses: our “fight or flight.”


When our brains are focused on fighting or fleeing, they’re not equipped to also help us listen rationally, respond graciously, conduct sound reasoning, control our behaviors, etc.  Ever taken a trip to the beach in your mind or imagined punching the person delivering that sandwich to you?


Further, our brains are more sensitive to threats than to rewards, and they like specificity more than concepts.  We are wired to remember the negative, specific feedback we’re hearing: not the fuzzy niceties.


Put these research findings together and learn:


  • Avoid disguising or pretending to hide negative feedback “in between” broad, non-specific positives.
  • If there is useful criticism to offer, plan the conversation to offer it.
  • Be specific, candid and kind.


You certainly do not want those who have dined and learned the bad sandwich to think – when you begin to commend them for good work – here we go again la-la-la or worse, to brace for the meal of correction and miss the encouragement feedback you intend.


Thinking ahead to plan a conversation in this mindset and with this approach will help you be heard.  That conversational environment will contribute to productive, trust-based relationships even – or maybe especially – when two parties don’t initially agree.