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Communication in the Workplace - by Geoff McLachlan

Fri, May 14, 2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

Why don't they do what I say!

Let's face it. We have all been frustrated with someone when they don't do what we ask of them. If you have children, you will be perpetually frustrated with the apparent lack of enthusiasm for which kids do anything other than what they want! How about when we communicate with a partner or spouse? Ever seem like you have the same conversation over and over again, and things don't seem to change? What happens when it's a coworker or a new hire?

Many of us are under the impression that we are excellent communicators. But are we as good as we think we are?  

I recently had a friend tell me about an experience he had with a food truck in his town (he's in California). He has been going to this same food truck for about three years in the mornings on his walk to work. He eats there 3-4 times a week. He always orders the breakfast burrito with bacon. EVERY time he orders, they have to confirm the order three or more times. He is so frustrated that they can't get the order right the first time. Finally, a friend suggests he change his order to "a burrito of bacon" because of the difference in syntax between Spanish and English. He thinks this is ridiculous, but he does it. Low and behold, they get his order right the first time! A simple change on his part made the order more understandable to the person taking the order.

His friend spoke Spanish and understood the differences in the languages. When he suggested it, it didn't make sense to the native English speaker. It made perfect sense to the Spanish speaker. 

Communication is not just what we say but what the person listening understands. This means we have to adapt our way of communicating for the listener. 

If we want to be better communicators, we have to understand that pace, tone, volume, facial expressions, moods, and life experiences all come into play when communicating.  

Next time you are getting frustrated with people for not following directions, try the following methods to see if what you said was actually understood by the listener. 

  1. Ask them to tell you what they are supposed to do. If they can't tell you, it means your directions were unclear. 
  2. Ask them to give you directions to do a simple task. You will see how they convey information and be able to give directions in a similar fashion. 

Everyone can be better at communicating (myself included!). When we are aware of how we communicate with others and how they receive information, we get better at it. It takes work, but it is so worth it! Do the best with what you can until you know better, then do better.


Geoff McLachlan is a Speaker, Trainer, and Coach. He is also the founder of Professionals at Play - an organization that helps businesses become places where people love to work. 

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