“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

Over the years we have all heard this popular quote. This quote was originally from the 1967 Paul Newman movie classic, Cool Hand Luke. This quote has also been used by Guns and Roses and Pink Floyd music, Saturday Night Live TV sketches, and in movies like Major Payne, Pulp Fiction and Smokey and the Bandit.

What does it mean to have a failure to communicate?

My neighbor, Jesse, works for the City of Houston Fire Department as an arson investigator. He has the job of investigating some of the worst fires in the Houston area. After the investigation is complete, he provides a report on the cause and possible issues that lead to either property loss, loss of life, or even a reason of the initial fire.

He told me the number one reason for large loss of life or property almost always comes down to communication issues. Sometimes, a fire is not called in a timely manner so small emergencies can turn into large problems. Sometimes there are equipment failures. But most of the time, issues come up when there are misunderstandings between people.

If we don’t want to have failures in our communication then, what does it mean for us to have successful communication?

The dictionary definition of communication is "the imparting or exchanging of information or news.”

This tells us that true communication cannot just be words from one person to another. True communication is an actual exchange of information between two people. The goal of good communication is to "elicit the desired response."

So what does this mean for us in our daily work at the Berry Center?

If we have a goal in mind, which is why we communicate, then what is the best way to communicate in order to achieve that goal we desire?

Here are 5 ways you can communicate with others more quickly and effectively:

1. Know the audience.

  • Who are they?

  • What do they want?

  • What motivates them?

  • How can you engage them in debate?

2. Timing is everything.

  • You must engage with other people at a time when they are ready to engage you.

  • Choose a time when the other person is not anxious or stressed out.

  • If it is a bad time, then come back later.

3. What you say is less important than what other people want to hear.

  • People like to hear phrases like: “Thank you”, “Could I ask a favor of you”, “Please could you try to find a few minutes to help me out”

  • People want to feel valued in conversations.

4. Don’t confuse broadcasting with communication.

  • Never forget real communication is a two-way conversation.

  • It is an exchange that requires feedback.

  • If you find yourself saying, “I told them so,” “they did not listen to me,” or “they should have done what I said,” then you are not communicating! You are merely broadcasting a statement.

5. Leave your ego at the door.

  • If your communication fails, don’t blame your audience, blame yourself!

  • You need to find another way to communicate so that your audience hears you and responds to your needs effectively.

  • Remember that if we have a communication goal in mind, which is why we communicate, then you should spend the effort to achieve that goal.

Work hard to achieve your desired outcome of great communication!

© 2020 Berry Center, Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District