There is a story that appears in my Facebook timeline every few months – and it always makes me smile:

“A wife asks her husband, “Could you please go shopping for me
and buy one carton of milk, and if they have eggs, get 6.”

A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk.
The wife asks him, “Why did you buy 6 cartons of milk?”

He replied, “They had eggs.”

It is usually introduced by a statement about how men are more logical than women, but I just see it as a classic communication error. Sometimes we think we have said something very clearly, but the person we are communicating with hears something else.

It isn’t just with words, but intent, and inflection (and an endless list of other variables).
Communication is a tricky thing, that we use all of the time. Yes ALL of the time, you cannot NOT communicate. Doing nothing, saying nothing is communicating just as much as having a face to face conversation – it’s just giving a different message.

The definition of communication that I think makes the most sense is:

“Communication is the response you get” (Richard Bandler).

It means that if you ask someone to do something and they do something different, or do nothing at all, you didn’t communicate it correctly. It may be that they understood the task, but not the need or urgency. It may be that you hadn’t built the required trust for them to act, it may be that they didn’t understand or didn’t care. The thing is you can’t change other people, or their actions, only your own. Change your communication and see if the results change (test and repeat).

We all have to remember it’s far more than our words that communicate who we are. Look back over your last Facebook updates, text conversations, or real life chats. Were you upbeat, complaining, encouraging, looking for attention, sharing, happy, funny?
Which you are you showing the world?

I know a lot of people don’t consider their Facebook page as connected to their business life – but if I see someone who is miserable, or complaining about something, I may be less likely to call them that day to talk business. There is no divide.

Look around at your closest friends, and the people that you see most often (they may or may not be the same people). How would you describe them? It’s likely that their attitudes and outlook are similar to yours.

Communication is something that we could talk about all day. The easiest way to tell if yours is working is by the response you get.

Are people showing up in your life with 6 cartons of milk or are they buying eggs?

This column first appeared in The Daily Advertiser on Tuesday 28th October 2012 – all of those usual rights reserved and stuff.