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COMMUNICATION IS A ONE WAY STREET- Is anybody required to listen to you?

Communication is not speaking. Speaking is an activity. Communication is a result. If I get an idea into your head, then I have communicated. If I don’t get the idea into your head, I didn’t communicate.
I often hear the old adage, “Communication is a two-way street.” People will also say, “They have to meet me half way; I can’t help it if they didn’t listen.”
I disagree. Communication is a one way street. Nobody has to listen to you.
Maybe communication should be thought of more like fishing; the fish don’t have to bite.
In the little Southern Maryland town of Avenue, where the Potomac River is miles wide, Murphy’s, the only local grocery store, sells fishing bait. They sell 2 types of worms, domestic for $7.99 a pint and imported for $4.99 a pint.
I was confused when I saw the prices. I asked why the local worms were more expensive than the imported worms. The woman at the register said, “That’s ‘cause the fancy worms don’t work. The fish won’t bite.”
Rising to the challenge, I bought one of each. We timed our fishing to high tide, when schools of fish looking for dinner come into our uncle’s cove just off the Potomac. Catching fish with the domestic worms was a matter of how fast we could bait the hook. We were contently reeling them in.
The imported worms were a bust. Though we did our part- came when the fish were hungry, delivered the morsel in the usual fashion, they refused to do their part.
The cashier was right. We could not catch a single fish with the foreign worms. It was as if the worms were from France, and the fish never took French. The fish didn’t understand that I was offering them something special. They didn’t see any value in the strange bait. The fish were under no obligation to bite … and they didn’t.
It’s the same thing with communication. When we use fancy words, business jargon, our listeners don’t take the bait, because they don’t understand its value. When we explain the brilliance of a product, service, or idea without making it appealing, our listeners they stop listening. They think you must be talking to someone else.
When people say their listeners have to meet them half way, I think, “Really?” That is not my experience.
A fisherman knows if the fish like what is being offered. If the fish don’t like it, the fisherman changes the bait or recasts the line. Good fishermen do not just stand there all day saying, “The fish have to meet me halfway!”
Yet people regularly speak without checking to see if they are getting a bite or a nibble on their line. If you speak, and you are not getting a reaction, then you should reconsider your bait, or deliver it differently. Good communication requires constantly checking your line.
Are you sure your co-workers are paying attention at meetings? Are potential customers really listening to your sales pitch? Are your children really hearing you?
When we speak, no one is required to listen. So, it’s our job to check in. Make eye contact. Ask questions. Tell relevant stories. Explain how our message helps the life, happiness, safety, comfort or future of our listeners.
When we speak at a meeting, give a presentation, or talk to staff or customers, it’s our job to find the ideas, feelings, and words that compel our listeners to pay attention. What works with one group may not work with another. It’s our job to lure our listeners to what we have to offer.
The next time you start to make excuses for messages not received, think of the fish. It’s not their fault; it’s yours. Excuses for lack of communication, cannot be blamed on our listeners. We must take full responsibility for hooking our listeners, for delivering our message in a compelling, memorable, and valuable way.
Sure we could be mad at the fish for not biting, but at the end of the day, we will have no dinner.
If you still want your communication to be a street, then presume it’s a one-way street with DO NOT ENTER signs at the other end. Decide you it’s your job to go to the end of the street. Once you get there, then find out what language they speak, what their interests are, what they hate and what they love. Then frame what you say so that it is helpful and gets results.
If your communication style is more like fishing, hook your line with something tasty and valuable, and then reel them in.

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