By Lindy Earl
People misspeak daily, sometimes hourly. This happens for a multitude of reasons – let’s consider some of them.
When I give this seminar, based on my book, Yes, He Actually Said That!, I ask why people misspeak. The first answer I receive is always a single word—ignorance. And it’s correct. People speak because they aren’t thinking or don’t know what they don’t know. Everyone has multiple stories to share on this aspect of miscommunication and there are several examples in the book.
People do speak out of ignorance. I’ve had people talk to me for twenty minutes or more on a topic and I know they are clueless, but I let them speak. When they’ve run down I follow my instincts of whether to illuminate them or allow them to continue in their ignorance. The goal with this challenge is to be on the right side when it happens, of listener and not speaker. As the proverb says, it’s better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Another reason people say things they shouldn’t is because they are trying to fit in. Being a Christian speaker as well as a Motivational speaker, for Christian gatherings I don’t charge but have been paid in prayers, hugs, fruits, veggies, baked good, and bread. One day I received a generous gift with far too many veggies for my family to eat. So I opened the basket and invited people to take what they wanted.
As this was happening comments were made about what good mater sammiches could be made with the tomatoes being offered. If you’ve grown up in certain areas of our country, you’ll know that a mater sammich is toast with miracle whip, tomatoes sliced thickly, lighted salted. That’s it. Maybe it’s an acquired taste because as I teach this seminar I receive some unkind comments.
So we were talking about what kind of tomatoes make the best mater sammiches when one woman, trying to fit in, says, “I like mine with bacon.” Silence. Dead silence. Several people looked around uneasily. Now, this woman hadn’t done anything sinister, she had simply misspoken. In her zeal to be part of the conversation she had talked about a BLT sandwich (not even a sammich) and completely shut down the conversation.
Now, I use this very silly example to make the point that you shouldn’t speak unless you know of what you speak. While this example is inane, we’ve all seen the same response when someone brings up the name of someone who should have remained nameless, possibly due to a death or divorce. The point is, you can fit into a group just fine while not saying anything.
Sometimes there’s a failure to read signals that causes people to misspeak. This can be a continuation of the ignorance mentioned above. Since people communicate in non-verbal ways we should watch for clues—smiles and nods to continue; frowns, lack of eye contact, and uncomfortable posture mean stop.
Another reason for poor communication is, in a word, ego. Some people just believe that what they have to say, and their opinions, are so important that the entire world needs to hear them. They’re wrong, but this they believe. A story of an incredible ego is found in the second volume of YHAST. I met a gentleman at his work and a few days later saw him again at a networking event. Being a Business Coach, and him being young and new at his business, I had some ideas for him. They weren’t negative or positive, just ideas that I was willing to share. So when I met him again, I mentioned having some comments for him. No response. None. I let it drop, but one of the speakers at the event discussed the importance of good communication. So I went back to the young gent and asked why he didn’t ask me to share my ideas with him when I said I had some comments, and I was told, “I don’t pay attention to the negative comments since we get 95% positive feedback.” Please notice the quotes. It’s probably the single stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in the business world and I told him so, taking out my pen so I could write it down for the next volume of the book. This ego-maniacal man stood next to me and repeated his sentence word for word to ensure I wrote it down correctly.
What kind of an ego does it take to ignore 5% of feedback? What if there are some gold nuggets in that 5%? Does this man want to surround himself with yes-men? What kind of growth can you expect when you only listen to compliments? One thing I find interesting is that he assumed I had negative comments. In fact, I didn’t. I had some ideas for him, but nothing negative to say, yet he assumed he was going to hear something negative, so chose to not listen, before he heard anything at all. How sad. How very, very sad.
Communication takes place every day, often before we even arrive at our destination. If we arrive early or late, appropriately dressed or not, we are communicating. Verbally, errors are made every day, but it is possible to decrease and even eliminate miscommunication. It helps greatly when you realize why people miscommunicate.
Of course, our goal is to communicate in a positive way where not only our words, but our intent, is well understood. So many things can affect communication that we have to be careful of not only what we say, but how we say it.
Lindy is a Speaker, Consultant, and Business Author, currently living in Atlanta, GA, and available to answer your questions anywhere in the world. Focusing on Communication, Leadership, and Corporate Culture, you can be more successful with Lindy as your Coach. Please contact her at LMEarl@EarlMarketing.com.