A short story about communications:
When the proud owner arrived at the vet to pick up his AKC (American Kennel Club) registered champion show dog, he noticed that the bill seemed awfully high for a bath and flea spray. So he mentioned that $100 seemed pretty pricey. That’s when he discovered his dog hadn’t been sprayed; it was spayed. The lawsuit that followed basically rendered the vet financially neutered.
The lesson in the story is to be sure that all those engaged in the discussion have the same meaning for what is being said. I was recently in a conversation where I totally misunderstood what my friend had said. Fortunately, I had resorted to my usual procedure: I asked for clarification.
Chris Gilissen—a dear friend I worked with when we were both assistant principals with the Huntington Beach Union High School District in Southern California—used to have a sign on his desk that read,
I KNOW YOU BELIEVE YOU UNDERSTOOD WHAT YOU THINK I SAID,
BUT I AM NOT SURE YOU REALIZE THAT WHAT YOU HEARD IS NOT WHAT I MEANT.
Don’t put a good relationship in jeopardy by assuming you know what the other person means. Ask for clarification.