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Jul-12-2010 23:36printcomments

Lost in Translation 3 Keys to Meaningful Communication

"Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after" -Anne Morrow Lindbergh ‘Gift from the Sea’

(CHARLESTON, SC) - Prudence Leith in her book, Pardon Me, But You’re Eating My Doily, shares her favorite catering disaster regarding a couple who went to the Far East on holiday. They wanted, besides their own supper, something to give to their poodle.  

Pointing to the dog, they made international eating signs. The waiter understood, picked up the poodle, and set off for the kitchen—only to return half an hour later with the roasted poodle on a platter. 

How often in your organization has the effectiveness of your communication been about as productive as it was for the couple at dinner? It seems that the more advanced we have become with the age of new media phenomenon’s such as Twitter and Facebook, etc., the greater the challenges of personal interaction and communication have become.  

Success in your business is dependant not just upon the modern conveniences of today’s technology, but on the power of personal relationships. Whether communicating with your staff, potential clients, or your family, you will need to develop a strong set of communication skills that will empower you to win. Consider these three keys to meaningful communication. 

Speak from your heart. When your team hears what is coming from your heart it will move them to respond in a manner more fulfilling than just responding to policy directives. While day-to-day operations are essential to your operation, communication from the heart transcends office procedure to an understanding of the larger picture- your organization’s mission. 

John Maxwell says, “Few things increase the credibility of leaders more than adding value to the people around them.” This is especially true when it comes to communicating from the heart. In doing so, your team will have a greater appreciation for your vision and will rally around you to achieve it. Meaningful communication begins when you speak from your heart. 

Look them in the eye.

There is something to be said for face-to-face communication. The way I read an email, for example, may be totally different from the way that you do. Implied tones, inflections, or attitudes are assumptions I make that may not necessarily reflect the intent of the sender. Yet when I look into the eyes of the person(s) I am speaking with it clears up any doubts, builds relationships, and breeds trust. 

Bruce Burton said, “For good or ill, your conversation is your advertisement. Every time you open your mouth you let men look into your mind. Do they see it well clothed, neat or businesswise?” The most important information regarding your organization deserves the most meaningful form of communication. Don’t let your team read about it; show up, look them in the eyes, and speak from your heart. 

Listen with passion. Effective leaders understand that the most important ingredient of meaningful communication is listening. The next time you are sitting around the conference table take a look at who is trying to control the conversation and who is actually listening, it might surprise you. 

A story is told about Broadway producer Jed Harris who once became convinced he was losing his hearing. He visited a specialist, who pulled out a gold watch and asked "Can you hear this ticking?" "Of course," Harris replied. The specialist walked to the door and asked the question again. Harris concentrated and said, "Yes, I can hear it clearly." Then the doctor walked into the next room and repeated the question a third time. A third time Harris said he could hear the ticking. "Mr. Harris," the doctor concluded, "there is nothing wrong with your hearing. You just don't listen."  

Peter Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” Meaningful communication begins when you understand that you organization depends on it and that it begins with you. 


Doug Dickerson is the former editor of the Berkeley Independent newspaper in South Carolina and is currently the director of university relations at Charleston Southern University. Doug’s writing has been recognized by the South Carolina Press Association, having won awards for enterprise reporting, series of articles, and for humor column writing. Doug’s passion for communicating leadership principles and personal development is crystallized through his Management Moment column and leadership columns he writes. Read more of Doug’s columns on his blog at

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