Failure to Communicate – The Elephant in the Room

Failure to communicate is a well-travelled elephant, present in rooms all over the world. That’s not to say people aren’t doing their best because they are doing their best. What if it could be better? Imagine that! That’s what we’re here to do, to make it better. Being aware of the words you choose and how they affect your tone makes all the difference there is to being a skilled communicator. It’s a wonderful place to be which I know, having made the trip myself.

I worked on a wildlife television show once upon a time and part of my job was to negotiate stock footage royalties with wildlife cinematographers and scientists and then to land the film we needed in time to make our air dates. We’d done business before with a small company in Paris and all the shipping was done by overnight courier which we paid for. So, where was the gorilla footage I’d ordered a week ago? I telephoned and was told it was sent by mail. “By mail?” said I. “What’s wrong with you people”, and the phone went dead. I’d been hung up on. It caused no end of problems for my colleagues and of course, I had to apologise.

Now, I would handle that situation in a completely different way. The objective was to get the film, not to insult a Parisian who had made a mistake. It was a boneheaded mistake, true, and I handled without an ounce of finesse.

These days I handle 94.5% of the moments in my life with lots of finesse and take great pride in that. I’m also having excellent experiences with people through this learnable skill that’s become second nature. My failure to communicate effectively taught me an important lesson that day and it’s always in the front of my mind. When there’s a problem, work to solve it rather than create another one.