PERILS OF MISCOMMUNICATION
By Rick Boxx
There is a simple principle that underscores a common pitfall in communications: “It is not what you say – it is EXACTLY what you say.” Failing to observe this can cause significant, even disastrous problems in business, as well as for relationships, as I learned all too clearly at an event I was overseeing.
It was a major business luncheon for our organization, and the event had gotten off to a good start. But as the guests began to finish their salads, I noticed that no lunches were being served. Even though our program was about to start, there were no meals in sight!
Our guests were eventually served, and the presentation went on as planned, but the delay caused considerable anxiety for our team, as well as for the hotel’s staff. Only later did I learn that I had signed contracts that clearly stated that our event was to be held from noon to 2 p.m., instead of our accustomed 11a.m-1 p.m.
Because of my error, failing to carefully read the documents for the events and not being able to correct the time difference, the hotel was understandably not prepared at our normal lunch time. We might regard this as a small miscommunication, but it proved extremely disconcerting to our meeting planners and could have disrupted an otherwise great event. Everything else on the contract was accurate – seating arrangement, number of guests expected, the menu, and other details. But a small miscommunication could have ruined everything.
When we talk about communications, we typically focus on what is being said or written, along with how it is expressed. However, what is not said – in this case, confusion over the expected schedule for our event – can be as critical for determining success or failure. I have found the Bible offers excellent insight into the perils of miscommunication.
Realizing that what we say or don’t say can lead to wrongdoing. In Ecclesiastes 5:6 we read, “Do not let your speech cause you to sin…” Paying attention to details, and having people check your work can help prevent painful miscommunications, whether they are spoken or in written form. My intent was definitely not to delay the meal service, but lack of intent can still lead to unintended consequences.
Responding to potential mistakes. If I had determined to be more diligent to check and even recheck important details, such as the obvious one about when we and the hotel agreed the meeting would be held, unnecessary inconvenience could have been avoided. “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18:15).
Recognizing that even small details can lead to failure. In a beautiful Old Testament book we read an appropriate warning: “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). The context of this admonition is not the marketplace, but the idea still applies. The “little foxes” we encounter during the course of any workday may seem inconsequential, but if not attended to properly, they can create more disruption than we could ever imagine.
As it turned out, despite the delay in serving our guests, our event proceeded pretty much as planned However, the outcome of my miscommunication could have been very different, a lesson I never forgot.