Effective communication begins with taking responsibility
Have you ever walked away from another person or group asking the question "why don't they get it?"
Or maybe you have thrown up your hands in frustration and asked the question that my old boss used to ask me:
"what do I have to do to get through to you?"
My old boss didn't get it...
Many years ago, the last paying job I had was with Reynolds Tobacco company. Back then, tobacco wasn’t quite as
evil as it is today. It was controversial, but it wasn’t quite as evil.
I was an outside sales rep, which meant that would go to the stores in my territory and make sure that they had
plenty of product and that it was merchandised properly. Many times this would involved ripping down the
competitions’ advertising and replacing with my own. It was perfect for me.
Not only did I get to sell, but I got to work with people and work from home and set my own hours. I wasn’t
really supposed to be setting my own hours, but I did because I could easily get my work done in only four to six
hours per day. And in my mind that left a couple of hours each day to do something for myself.
The normal routine was that I only had to go to the office every two to three weeks to pick up supplies.
My district manager was Jim MaGuire. Jim was real go getter and we got along really well. He had an assistant
district manager name Mac who was the enforcer. I can’t remember his real name, I just know that everybody called
Because the normal routine was to go to the office every week or two, it was usually not good news if Mac called
you home and asked (told) you to come to the office the next day. It always felt like a child being called to the
principles’ office. He would never say what he wanted, so it left you to imagine about it all night. I think this
was part of his intimidation strategy.
A call to the office was always a journey into the unknown! So I spent the night worrying about it. Does this
ever happen to you?
As soon as I got to the office, I knew something was up because he call me into his office and closed the door.
If this was a minor matter, he wouldn’t have closed the door. Maybe this was more of his intimidation strategy.
Then he let me have it. Full attack mode. “Why aren’t you getting your reports in on time?”
I knew that I couldn’t tell him the truth… that I didn’t care about the reports. Maybe I should have just told
him that I was a big picture guy and that I really didn’t care about the details. But I don’t think that he would
have cared. Mac wasn’t a deep thinker.
This wasn’t the first time I had been called in on this, so he was determined to make an impression on me. He
decided to use his most advanced communication techniques which basically consisted of pounding on the desk and
screaming. I can still remember he very words: “Endress, what do I have to do to get this through your head?”
I know… why don’t you scream louder and pound some more. Maybe the problem is that I can’t hear you and if you
tell me again louder, you’ll get through. Have you ever met someone like this who thinks that what didn’t work
before will work now if only they do more of it?
So just to shut him up, I agreed to make sure that my reports were always in on time. I had to. But he hadn’t
really convinced me. There’s an old saying that says, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion
still”, and that’s the way it was with Mac and me.
I still hated doing my reports, but I tried to have them in on time really hard for a few weeks, but then I fell
back into my old habits.
The reason he never got through to me was that he never understood that the success of the communication is the
responsibility of the communicator. He was looking at the situation from his perspective, not mine. He never tried
to do anything different than what was already not working
Here's my question to you...
When you attend one of my webinars, keynotes or workshops, or if you read one of my books or articles and don't
get the message that I am trying to convey, whose fault is it?
Of course the fault is mine. It is up to me to construct and convey the message in a way that every intended
recipient gets the meaning as I intended it.
If you don't... it's my fault.
Here's another question...
If someone you are communicating with doesn't get the meaning as you intended it, whose fault is it?
If they don't take the requested action, adopt you ideas or programs, or buy your products, whose fault is
If you answered "mine", you are on your way to instantly revolutionizing your communication effectiveness.
This is the quickest way...
Taking responsibility for your results is the fastest way to improve your communication effectiveness because it
empowers you to find solutions for your challenges. It also empowers you to find ways to take advantage of your
The next time you face frustration in getting your message across take responsibility, try something else, and
watch communication magic take place.