Please Help Yourself

Communication can be a tricky thing.

Sometimes what we THINK we are communicating clearly simply doesn’t come across the way it’s supposed to.

Case in point — Last week I was standing at the front desk of the leasing office in my apartment building talking to one of the leasing agents. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a bowl on the counter with a sign that clearly read “Please help yourself.” Knowing that Halloween is just a few days away, and seeing the small, edible bits in the bowl, I figured someone had made homemade Halloween candy to share with us tenants. I grab a piece and tossed it in my mouth.

OH MY GOODNESS! It was horrible. I couldn’t spit it out fast enough.

After a minute of gagging and spitting the leasing agent was able to wipe the look of horror off her face.

“What was that?!”

“Dog treats. I figured people would know that by the look and smell. Perhaps I had better label them more clearly.”

I don’t know why she had dog treats on the counter. I don’t know why the bowl was marked as it was.  I DO know that I got a completely different message than was intended by person who sent it.

Sometimes the message we intend to communicate is NOT the message that gets received. When it comes to a bowl of dog treats the potential damage is relatively minor — unless you are the one who pops it in your mouth! (I can STILL taste the funk over a week later!)

But what about when it comes to sharing your unique value to a potential customer or potential employer? In such a case you want the message to be as clear as possible — without ambiguity and targeted specifically for the intended audience.

How about you?  Do you communicate clearly with your intended audience? Do THEY get the message you intended to send?  If not, you have some work to do on your message.

4 Comments to Please Help Yourself

  1. by Jake French

    On October 18, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Hey Sean,

    Dog treats, yuck! This undesirable situation has happened to every one of us, but could be prevented. Your advice could not have been more timely. While trying to get a contract with a high profile literary agent, the intended focus of my book wasvnot accurately communicated. I had to back pedal and do lots of explaining. This was embaressing and looked unprofessional. Should have read your blog sooner. Thanks Sean!

  2. by Sean

    On October 19, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Embarrassing AND it tasted bad! Thanks Jake

  3. by S. Brooke Elliott

    On November 1, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    Loved the e-Zine! Keep it coming. And it linked me to this great blog post, too. Even better! I needed the laugh, and the reminder that both accessibility AND CLARITY are needed in any successful professional communication.

    Seriously, keep it coming. And thanks.

  4. by Sean

    On November 2, 2011 at 1:12 am

    yeah, a laugh at my expense is always a good thing! Let me know the next time you are in town. Love to grab a cup of tea!


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