Does your communication cause turbulence?

Returning from a recent trip, I was in the midst of my second leg home, preparing a speech. I went about it in the usual manner: opening joke, overview of the topic, details, etc. The flight attendant gave the standard spiel about how to buckle a seatbelt, what happens in case of a water landing … yada, yada, yada.

I tried to listen, but concluded it was the same stale speech with nothing different, informative or relevant.

If not for writing a speech, it would not have occurred to me to wonder: In talking to clients, interacting with my peers at work and even the way I relate to my family, is my approach still relevant and genuine, or was I no different than a flight attendant’s speech?

I got to thinking about my style and approach.

  • Great with the initial interaction — Like clockwork, as I am not shy, I would reach out and open a dialogue using the standard lines or descriptions. Why not? After all, it has been effective.
  • Consistent with the follow-up — Making plans to meet using the same approach, style, etc. Since it is working (or so I thought), why change?
  • Positive reinforcements — Was I receiving good feedback about my style? Or, did others not want to really tell me about what they did not like?

Then I thought about other factors and why the message might not be working or causing the desired impact.

  • What are some of my favorite analogies and metaphors that I use to talk about issues and opportunities?
  • What actions did I advocate that were specifically intended to have an impact? What were the short-and long-term results? Did something desirable occur?
  • What conscious choices will I make today about my thoughts, language and actions?

I wonder if we consciously choose our metaphors and methodologies for taking action, or have our responses and approaches somehow become automatic?

If, in fact, they are automatic and therefore predictable, how can we make a conscious attempt to become more aware of our own language and the influence that our words may have on the actions that we and those around us take?

It comes down to being more prepared for every meeting, call and interaction — not just putting everything on autopilot. (I could not pass on the opportunity to deliver a pun.) This requires allocating time on our busy schedules for planning.

Next, think about how the receiver will absorb your messages and actions; pause and alter your message, versus relying on the historic approach. As we more clearly understand our past communication efforts, we are able to make thoughtful choices about our future language usage and subsequent impact.

As I left the plane, I handed the flight attendant a list of alternate ideas about the how to use the seatbelt-and-turn-off-the-phone pitch and my business card. Who knows, maybe we started a new line of business?


Elliot N. Dinkin is the President and CEO of Cowden Associates Inc. Elliot’s strategic approach assists clients in the development of a total compensation benefit package that controls costs, adds efficiencies and enables the employer to attract, retain, motivate and keep employees engaged while meeting company objectives. Through his guidance, employers become more competitive by creating total compensation packages verses viewing benefits in silos.