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Tuesday morning, I was driving my 4 year old daughter to preschool for the day.

We got talking about music.

I asked her, “Would you like to learn to play instrument?”

She said, “Sure.”

I said, “What instrument do you think you’d like to learn?”

Just after asking the question, I thought I’d try to stretch her thinking a bit, by adding, “The drums?”

Without missing a beat, Miranda replied,

“Oh, Daddy, I already know how to play to the drums.”

She has a point there.    We have drums at home.  She’s played on them.

Therefore, she already plays the drums.  In her mind, it’s perfectly clear.  Case closed.

Our little exchange got me thinking.

My questioning was vague.  I hadn’t drilled down to make sure we were talking on the same level. What I meant by “learn to play” was very different than what Miranda understood as “learn to play”.

Another instance of communication gone awry.

In this case, it was a harmless conversation.  But if I’m in a situation where I’m on the hook to deliver results, the onus is on me to make sure we both mean what say we mean.

Operating in parallel streams happens all the time within companies.

I was working with a group of Tax Associates at a large firm this morning.  I posed the following situation:

It’s late afternoon.  Your  manager gives you something to do “right away”, and you cancel your plans that evening, because you want  to meet their deadline.  The next morning you find out that they didn’t actually need it for another few days. 

If this has happened to you, raise your hand.

Nearly every hand in the room went up.

Clarity is in the mind of the beholder.   However, if you need to know that someone else is clear in the way you think they’re clear, do a confirmation.

Make it explicit.

It may take some time upfront, but will save  you lots down the road.



Alain Hunkins leads personal and professional development trainings for individuals, teams and organizations. Over the last two decades, Alain has facilitated for over a thousand groups, ranging from at-risk youth to Fortune 500 executives. He moves between the educational, artistic, not-for-profit, government and corporate worlds. Alain sharpened his facilitation skills as an Educational Consultant in New York City, developing programs on many subjects, including Conflict Resolution, Networking, Customer Service, Communication, and Leadership.
Alain earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College and his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee Professional Theater Training Program. He is a certified Leadership Challenge & MBTI facilitator, as well as a certified co-leader for ManKind Project International, whose mission is to help men lead missions of service in their families, communities, and workplaces. Alain completed the New Warrior Training Adventure in 1995.

– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.