The other day I was driving downtown and I saw a policeman talking to a driver of a pick-up truck. The red truck was filled with penguins. Penguins in a truck—downtown Sarasota—Yikes! The policeman seemed impatient as he spoke to the elderly driver. ”Look buddy, take these penguins to the zoo, will ya?” As the light changed, I shook my head in disbelief and drove on my way.
The next day I was driving downtown and I saw the same truck filled with penguins. The same policeman was again talking to the driver. At first I wondered if I was experiencing déjà vu but apprently not. The policeman seemed more agitated than the day before. I heard him say a bit more harshly “Hey buddy, what are ya doin’? Didn’t I tell you yesterday to take these penguins to the zoo?”
And the driver responded pleasantly,”Yes, officer, you did. Thanks for the great idea. They had so much fun at the zoo that today I decided to take them to the beach!”
Whether you believe this actually happened or not is of little consequence. But my story raises a valid point. Sometimes we think we have clearly communicated with someone (“Hey buddy, take these penguins
to the zoo…”) and find out later on that our communication was misunderstood.
For example, when a mother asks her teenage daughter to clean her room. The daughter shoves everything under her bed and considers the job done. A sales manager tells an underperforming sales rep, “Do whatever it takes to bring in new business today”. The sales rep makes a sale after offering six months free service. When a woman tells her husband he needs to spend time with their toddler on Saturday, he responds by putting the child on a blanket in front of the TV during the Notre Dame game.
Women who are interested in being at their best SUCCESSTROGEN level communicate clearly, indicating what they need and expect. The mom asking her daughter to clean her room indicates her definition of a clean room, such as dirty clothes in the hamper, clean clothing hung in the closet and put away in dresser drawers, and the bed made. The sales manager indicates her desire for new business by saying, “If you need to go as far as offering one month free service, you have that leeway”. And the woman who wishes for her husband to spend time with their toddler on Saturday will indicate that she wants the dad and the baby to do something together such as go for a walk, play in the park, and read a story. Once the baby is napping, the dad is free to watch football.
Sometimes we do not care how something is done; we just want it taken
care of. For example, we may need someone to pick up salad at the market and when, how, and where is of little interest to us. But when we do care,
then we need to be clear by setting the boundaries of what we need and want. Communicating exactly what we need and want is helpful on two counts. First, when we set the boundaries we create a visual of what we are requesting, adding to the clarity of the listener. And, second, our clarity of the boundaries allows the receiver to either commit to the terms or negotiate them. When I am not clear about my needs and wants, I generally end up feeling disappointed or ticked off. When I communicate clearly I find I am happy with the end result.
By the way, I saw the elderly man in the pickup truck with the penguins a third time. Each penguin was fashionably dressed with a colorful scarf around its
neck—I guess they had been shopping!