“How do you start the car?”
It was a perfectly reasonable question.
Every hire car we use abroad seems different.
And only I had driven this one.
So, my wife had sat in growing embarrassment with her friend puzzling it out.
A text to me on the golf course seemed a natural solution.
I saw it flash up and answered in seconds.
You might have expected a grateful response.
Instead – silence.
In the car, the bafflement grew.
“Put the jet in.
“Put foot on brake and press start.”
It was the simplest way I could explain it.
Until predictive text intervened.
“Jet” should have read “key”.
The absence of obvious jets had just confused matters.
My wife started the car without my help.
But it just proves a point.
Communication is a two-way street.
We may think we’ve been perfectly clear.
But only if the receiver understands perfectly, have we communicated.
Predictive text can cause instant alarm.
Here’s an example I saw recently:
“Dad and I are going to divorce in the spring”
“What? Why? Mum, call me please.”
“Sorry Honey – Dad and I are going to Disney in the spring.”
Miscommunication, based on a lack of time, is the enemy.
It’s our favourite mantra on media training courses and presentation skills courses.
Whether run at our Glasgow studios or around the world, the message is the same:
Misinterpretation and miscommunication – both confidence-killers.
So, clients ask us these questions:
How can I communicate more effectively?
How do I hit the mark with texts and emails?
What are the most common barriers to effective communication?
The answer is simple: allocate time.
We advocate painting pictures.
So vivid they surpass mere words themselves.
But what if a picture is misleading?
Like the new signs for ladies’ toilets at an airport I was travelling through last week.
They look very like the signs for men’s toilets.
Just perhaps slightly curvier.
Whoever thought that was a good idea?
Creativity has to balance with clarity.
I’m writing this on a Virgin train journey from Glasgow to London.
You’d think I’d have confidence using the toilet.
But as I turn to check the door is locked, a moment of panic.
The lock dial is pointing to a red dot.
Does that mean it’s locked – or I’m in danger of being embarrassed?
I’m unable to think straight so hold the handle as a back-up plan.
“Locked” or “unlocked” would have done the trick.
It may be an attempt to be inclusive to non-English speakers.
But it confused this English speaker.
So ask yourself if even one person would struggle to understand.
So here are three Golden Rules for great communication:
That means a ban on jets, obscure toilet signs and red dots.
Find out more about the causes, symptoms and antidotes to great communication on our communication skills courses, run in Glasgow, Edinburgh and all over the world.
Bill McFarlan is Co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.
You can view his full profile here.
Some media trainers knock you down…and leave you down. Our media coaches show you how to deal with each knock…and still win through. So you have the presentation skills to perform – with confidence.