Communication Skills Article
IT'S NOT WHAT YOU SAY; IT'S HOW YOU SAY IT. OR, MAYBE, IT'S
WHAT YOU DON'T SAY
Al Borowski, MEd, CSP, PP
Effective communication skills should focus on
Miscommunication is a common problem in both your
business and personal life. Good communication skills should become a
priority to avoid embarrassing mistakes.
In the business world, miscommunication can range from a simple misunderstanding
to downright deceptive advertising.
Either way, it can lead to hard feelings, loss of respect or lost customers.
A trip to a leading sporting goods stores illustrates the point.
On a recent shopping trip to this famous sporting goods store, my wife and one of my
granddaughters were looking for a certain style of athletic shoe.
They were excited to find that style on sale for five dollars off. Or so they
After checking out, my wife always checks the receipt to ensure what she paid
was what she expected to pay. This time was significantly more important because
of what happened at the check out counter.
She had bought a popular brand of gym shorts that were clearly marked "4 for
The sales clerk rang them up at $7.50each.
Marylou spotted the error on the cash register and reminded the clerk of the
At this point, the sales clerk said something that Marylou thought was rather
curious. The clerk said, "Oh, you didn't have to buy four of them. You could
have bought one pair at $5.00"
Marylou thought, "Why state a quantity discount of '4 for $20.00' when you could
buy one pair at what seemed to be a discounted price?"
Why did the sign not say, "On sale for $5.00 each rather than $7.50?"
Why did the sign not indicate that the customer was not required to buy four
items to get the discount?
Somewhere, effective communication skills were
Again, It's not what you say but what you don't say.
Armed with this curious caution flag, Marylou checked the receipt for other
And, indeed, she came across what appeared to be another source of pricing
The original purpose for the shopping trip was the specific style of athletic
She noticed that the receipt did not reflect the $5.00 discount advertised on
She asked me to go back to check what the price should be.
Here's what I found.
The advertising sign clearly stated the brand name with a specific style at the
The athletic shoe my granddaughter selected from the same rack that carried the
advertising sign was the same brand, but not the same style.
I noticed that the advertised style carried a price on the product but the style
she selected did not.
I motioned to a manager to help us understand their pricing and advertising
I told the manager that the rack advertised the athletic shoes for the $5.00
discount and that one would assume it applied to all the shoes on that rack.
He then told me that the discount applied only to the specific style clearly
stated on the sign.
I then asked him why all of the other styles on the same rack did not have a
price on them.
He then told me, "Well, those are $25.00 a pair."
I said, "How do you know that?"
He said, Because I know that."
I then said, "Because the sign advertises a $5.00 discount and is the only sign
on the rack, and the other styles do not have a price, would not the logical
conclusion be that every pair on the rack would be $5.00 off?"
He said, "The sign clearly states the discount applies to this brand and this
Do you understand what the man was saying?
He was saying, "Hey, stupid. Read the sign."
At least, as a consumer, that's the way I read his message.
At this point, the issue of communication skills
again came into play.
At this point, I said.
"If I sued your company for false or deceptive advertising, your company would
win the court case,
But, you would definitely lose a customer and a lot of good will."
At one time in our judicial system, this type of practice was called a "come-on
sale" and was considered illegal.
A company would advertise a product at a reduced price as a "lost leader" to get
customers in the store and where they would find a limited selection or an "out
of stock" situation.
The hope by the store was that because the customers were in the store, they
would buy the more profitable items.
As the old saying goes, "It's not what you say but how you say it."
The sign on the shoe rack did not say, "The other shoes are not on sale."
The manager did not say, "Hey, stupid. Read the sign."
Interpretation then becomes a personal matter. So, be careful.
Miscommunication can occur with "What you don't say."
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