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This is a blog about Truth, Justice and the American Way. The stories are true. No names have been changed to protect anyone's identity, including my own. If the story is about me, then I'll say so right up front. If I don't use a name to identify whom the story is about, then it's because it's not relevant. So please do not call me or e-mail me with your kind condolences or unwarranted congratulations about something that you believe is a cleverly disguised bio from my alter ego. These stories, like my photo, are unretouched.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You Heard Me Say WHAT??

“That’s not what you said.”

This person is intelligent, articulate, and a friend. How could he possibly not understand what I said? I was very clear. Wasn’t I? Well, wasn’t I?

English is my mother-tongue. I have spoken it all my life. So I am always surprised when I say something very clearly and the other person hears something entirely different. Maybe it’s a simple language barrier: We both speak English but his is Mars-dialect and mine has a very distinct Venus-accent. Bad translation, perhaps.

And we weren’t even in conflict. Conflict communication can get really tricky. My thoughts go back to the office not so long ago when what I really wanted to say is, “Hey lard-ass, the presentation is tomorrow and Michelle suspects that you haven’t even started to write it, which means that she will be stuck here at midnight putting together the PowerPoint; so why are you busy posting a funny picture on FaceBook?” But I didn’t say that, because I am a caring boss who wants to empower my employees and constantly reinforce their self-worth to inspire a more team-driven end-product. Instead I said, “How’s the presentation coming?”

Polite. Inquisitive but not prying. Said in a friendly supportive tone of voice. But what he heard was, “Hey lard-ass, the presentation is tomorrow and Michelle suspects that you haven’t even started to write it, which means that she will be here at midnight putting together the PowerPoint; so why are you busy posting a funny picture on FaceBook?”

Strange. I didn’t say that. So he countered with, “Listen Bitch, stop riding me so hard. I could write this in my sleep and, besides, I’m taking a personal break here so why don’t you back off before I go postal.” No, actually what he said was, “Almost finished,” which meant that Michelle is probably right, and it’s not even started.

So in my best upbeat voice, while turning away, I said, “Great! Let me know if you could use a hand.” Which, in Kay-speak means, “Why do I even try to give these people more responsibility? I could have written this in my sleep.” And I go back to my office.

Given our tendency to hear what we expect to hear, miscommunication can happen easily. In addition, body language and tone of voice add heavily to the message being conveyed. I often tell my husband, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” He takes great exception to this, by the way, and always feigns complete innocence. Sure.

Most of us in the business world have taken some kind of seminar on communication where they teach you active listening, and positive spin, and putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. We learn to respect the other person’s belief, eliminate ambiguity, and most importantly keep our communications non-confrontational.

“Constant kindness can accomplish much.” said Albert Schweitzer, “As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” Albert clearly never visited my office.

By the way, Michelle refuses to think of this as an opportunity for growth; she wants overtime for having had to stay after midnight.


  1. I love your posts. Very funny ... and true.

  2. It sounds like a conspiracy with everyone coming out a winner!

  3. Have you been eavesdropping on my wife and I? She is always telling me it's not what I say but how I say it. Like your husband, I just don't get it. You're damned if you say it and you're damned if you don't because she like knows what I'm thinking. Wives are gnarly that way.

    Max M
    Laguna Beach, CA

    How come this thing won't let me sign in with my LiveJournal account? I'm not anonymous. Please fix that.

  4. I love your writing style, it is so honest and fun. You come across as wity, intelligent and no BS in your posts. I look forward to your new additions and have saved your blog in My Favorites. Keep up the great work!

    Kathy M
    Natick, MA

  5. Kay,

    Sad, true and hysterically funny all in one.

    I frequently face this issue not only from the Mars Venus gravitational conflict (I like that and will definitely use it again) but also due to my use of English English versus US English. It is not necessarily the words we know are an issue: Jumper/Sweater, Petrol/Gas, Handbag/Purse, Purse/Wallet but frequently the precision with which a term is used. I end up dealing with nodding dog syndrome only to be faced with the same subject days later and I discover that the audience was being polite and had simply glazed over.

    My Mother has an excuse, if you see her 'wool gathering' you know to ask - "do you have your hearing aid turned on?", her reply is usually "its in my purse, I didn't want to waste the batteries"! At least then I know.

    Please, if someone doesn't understand the H E double hockey sticks what I'm saying or what I mean let me know!

    Kay as usual you are compulsive reading with a pithy wit and undeniable charm.

    Laine D.

  6. Funny!
    It would actually be an excellent speech! I would love to hear you deliver it:-)

    Stay Delicious always!

  7. "Putting yourself in other peoples shoes", Kindness, Awareness of our Speech, Actions and Heart produce Productive Results that Create Harmony, Respect and Integrity.

    I enjoy your writing style Kay. Looking forward to connecting.