Big Dreams Canadian Publication
ISSN 1200-5460 - A Canadian Publication
Personal Development And Small Business Topics

Who's On First?

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ImagePerhaps you are familiar with a famous baseball comedy act, known as Who's On First? by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. It highlights what I see as a communication breakdown between the two people involved.

We had a similar experience recently when we crossed the border into the USA from Canada.


We were crossing the border, with my brother from England, and so we had to go inside and get him processed. The fun part was when they asked Pat about where we are going, and she explained that she has a cabin in Birch Bay. The conversation went something like this:

Border Patrol:Do you own your cabin?
Pat:We own it.
Border Patrol:How often do you go down to the cabin?
Pat:It depends on when we rent it.
Border Patrol:You rent it? I thought you said you own it?
Pat:I do.
Border Patrol:So how often do you go down to the cabin?
Pat:It depends on when we rent it
Border Patrol:You rent it? But said you own it.
Pat:I do own it.
Border Patrol:How often do you go there?
Pat:Several times a year but it depends when we rent it out.
Border Patrol:Do you own it or rent it?
Pat:I own it...

It went on like this for some time. I was standing to one side, cautious not to say anything, since they might think I am prompting her on what to say. Then it clicked that the single word "rent" had two different meanings to the two different people involved. To Pat, it meant to "rent out the property to a tenant". To the border patrol officer, they heard "to rent a property from as a tenant".

What is funny is that neither of them saw this, and so they kept on going, talking around in circles and probably getting more and more frustrated with the other person. I finally intervened and helped clarify things before someone blew a gasket.

Have you ever got stuck in an orbital dialogue like this? Often when you are in it, you fail to see that there is a communication issue and you keep on trying to press your point. Stephen Covey said "Seek first to understand." I think that is good advice, you need to take a step back and understand what is going on and allow for the fact that perhaps you also have a blind spot.

Duncan

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