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Communication is the responsibility of the sender

To borrow a metaphor I was once offered once in a training session very early in my career:

If I order a ham and cheese sandwich, and I open it to find a chicken sandwich – who’s fault is it?

Many people may say the person taking the order, making the sandwich or delivering the product – but a conscientious communicator would take the responsibility themselves:

  • Was my tone and vocabulary suitable for the server?
  • Could I have pointed at a menu or example?
  • Did I repeat myself and check for confirmation of understanding though feedback repetition?
  • Could I have overseen the sandwich making to confirm I was understood?
  • Did I check the contents of the packaging in time to return and correct any error?
  • Is my accent local?
  • Is the server busy?
  • Did I have eye-contact and receive an understanding nod in return?

There are many questions I can ask myself as to whether that was anything I could do to improve my communication to maximise my chances of the intended response.

I have no control over the experience and culture of the people I communicate with – but I do have opportunity to study my audience and assess their needs, interests, motivations and comprehension.

Effective communication is pro-active, pre-emptive and refined – it is a journey with feedback and adjustments monitored to continually learn equally from successes and failures for an evolving empathy with our audience, and how we can both be satisfied from our interactions.

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