Every once in a while something happens, and the memory of that something lasts for a very long time. And during the communication, and even in the aftermath of the communication, you could clearly see from everyone’s lens exactly what they were thinking/perceiving in their head…but yet, you were powerless to change the future, and absolutely struck at how erroneous the communication was and how misshapen the message was received by one or more parties to the conversation. And sometimes it’s so bad that it’s absolutely comedic! That’s how this went almost a decade ago for me. I’m telling you this story because as I laid trying to go to sleep the other night I was telling my husband a story, and well, as I talked he was falling asleep and would repeat parts of the story, and be so totally wrong in what he “repeated” back to me….that this old story came to my mind!

The story started with my husband texting me a picture of a cake…he was standing at a work party where they were congratulating a person who had just got promoted from an entry level position to an administrative position in a different department with the same company. Her current department had loved working with her and was all in on celebrating her good fortune…so they had ordered a cake for an at work/after hours departmental celebration. When I saw a picture of the cake my response was “Please tell me you weren’t responsible for ordering that cake!” 🙂 …and thankfully he wasn’t responsible…THIS Time!

A supervisor of the person had called a bakery to order the cake…and here’s how that conversation went. I’ll put the Bakery’s dialogue in italics, and the customers dialogue in bold.

 Hello, _____Bakery! 
 Hello, I need to order a sheet cake. 
 Okay, we have full sheet cakes and 1/2 sheet cakes. 
 “I’ll take the 1/2 sheet cake.  And, I would like you to write “Congratulations” on the cake and put some flowers around the edge. 
 Okay, is that all you want it to say? There’s a lot of space on there, you could add something else, like “congratulations on your anniversary”, or “congratulations for a job well done”. 
 That’s a good idea.  How about you write “Congratulations”, then I guess put “for 5 years” at the bottom. want it to say “Congratulations”, and then, “for 5 years at the bottom”. 
 Yep,…I’ll be down to pick it up tomorrow morning! 
 Perfect, we’ll have it ready for you. 

And here is an image that represents the final cake (I can’t find my original picture)…..

Now don’t get offended right away…think about how this cake happened. Think about what each person participating in the conversation was thinking. The customer was merely trying to get the words “for 5 years” put below the “Congratulations”, but they used the unfortunate words of “at the bottom”.

And, before your mind starts worrying about how this party went, I’ll clarify. When the customer picked up the cake, they didn’t look at it. They went straight from the bakery to the party, where they proudly opened the cake, then had several frantic moments trying to scrape “at the bottom” off of the cake. The person whose promotion they were celebrating thought the story was hilarious, and well, the supervisor felt awful and plans on ordering her a new cake to celebrate her “for 10 years at the top!”. And, you have to wonder if part of her promotion was her ability to understand how the original cake could have happened, and that it wasn’t some cosmic plan to “get her” or “put her down”! They were all there celebrating her promotion!!!! And her reaction was priceless. She looked at the cake in front of everyone, and just started laughing. My husband, having not seen the cake from his vantage point, was really anxious to see what was in the box…and hence took the picture and texted me.

The point of my story is that we all have miscommunications that happens every day. And, too frequently we blame that miscommunication on the other person involved. It’s really up to all parties involved to remain calm, reserve judgement, and continue to seek clarification until you know that both parties are on the same page with the actions you are seeking. Remember the baker asked for clarification of what was supposed to be on the cake…and it was verified by the person ordering the cake. Using the exact same words to check for clarification however, as you can see, may not be a perfect strategy.

Seek clarification in all important matters!!!!

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