Have you ever had one of those encounters where you were sure you understood what someone was saying but you were way off? By like a million miles? Maybe it was a conference call, or talking with your kids or trying to get a store clerk to understand what you wanted. These are all everyday examples of how slippery communication can be if you don’t check and double check the context and meaning of what someone is saying. It takes just a second and can save loads of time and hurt feelings.
A couple of weeks ago I received a lesson in communication that woke me up. I was in New York, coming home to Denver via Newark airport in New Jersey. I was early for my flight so I was sitting alone at the Denver gate, #70. I was approached by an older Asian man who could not speak English. Not very well anyway.
“Elway” he said, pointing at the gate sign.
“Uh no” I said chuckling a bit, “this is Denver. Elway is not here, he’s in Denver.” Must be a Broncos fan, I thought.
“Elway Denver?” he said, getting kind of excited.
“Uh, yeah” I said, “Elway is in Denver.”
“Elway here?” he said
“No Elway is in Denver” I replied.
“I go Elway. Elway Denver”’ he said confidently.
“You better have an appointment if you want to see Elway” I laughed, feeling suddenly confused.
“I go Elway here” he said.
“Yes you go see Elway here” I complied.
“O good! I go tell wife Elway here!”
“NO NO NO!” I shouted, being totally misunderstood. “Elway is in Denver and you need an appointment!” I said.
“Oh….Elway not here.”
“No he’s not” I said, fatherly like.
Looking down at his ticket he said, “Oh, Elway gate #71.”
I asked to see his ticket. To my shock, his ticket was for gate #71 to LA.
Wow! Lesson learned: Be careful what you think you hear.
Do this: repeat what someone says back to them to be sure you heard them right. Ask them to be more specific or rephrase if you have any questions. Always check, double check, clarify and be ready to be totally way off on what you think you heard.
And by the way, if you want to see Elway, you’re going to need an appointment.
Bill Beausay is a motivational speaker who knows the importance of communication from success in business to airport travel. Bill Beausay’s Speaker Page