One word can make a difference

MarkBrownOne word in particular causes lots of misunderstanding.

Communication is often cited as the issue when conflict arises. We communicate all day, every day and yet, somehow, we are still not good at it.

Mark Brown, the 1995 World Champion of Public Speaking, addressed us yesterday on this very topic.  He gave us many gems and lessons in communication.


This is the lesson that I loved the most:

There is a word used in (and outside  of) business today that just does not cut it in terms of clear communication.

That innocent sounding word is ASAP.

We all know what it means …. as soon as possible.

BUT what does that actually mean?

Picture the scene: You send an email to Jack.

“I need that report asap”

In your head you know and understand that you need it by 16h00 today.

What’s happening in Jack’s head? Jack is already working on a deadline and decides he’ll do your report tomorrow. He’s going to do it as soon as possible for him, not as soon as possible for you.

What happens? You get really tense with Jack because he does not deliver. Jack gets really tense with you because he was doing the best he can, and you just don’t understand him.

It happens so easily, doesn’t it.

Yet, the responsibility for Jack understanding your communication lies with you NOT him.

It such a simple thing, such a tiny word and so easy to avoid the misunderstanding.

How do you do this? Tell Jack by when you need the report.

“Please can you get that report back to me by 16h00 today”.

In this case, a few more words, and yet – much clearer communication.

Of course, Jack may come back and say he cannot get it done, in which case the two of you negotiate and decide on something that’ll work for both of you.

There are three reasons that we get into a mess around communication:

  • We assume the other person knows what we mean
  • We get into bad communication habits, like using ASAP instead of being clear on the deadline.
  • We don’t check that the other person actually understandswhat we have said.

Become aware of the kind of language you are using.

Are you guilty of any of these three points?

Thanks Mark!! for an inspiring talk and effective tips on communication.

Remember: one word can make a huge difference.

You want to be clear when you communicate deadlines with someone?

Here’s the deal:

Never, ever use ASAP again!


About Kirsten Long

Coach. Toastmaster. Prison-worker. Wife. Mother. Friend.
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6 Responses to One word can make a difference

  1. Alton says:

    And the most popular one which happen in relationships or any related platform is “silence” where both parties assume instead of ask or confirm which course tension till one step forward to clear the air…such a waist of energy and time. (communication break indeed unclear barriers)

  2. Mantha says:

    It’s like having teenagers. You have to tell them exactly what you want. If you don’t, you have to take responsibility for what you get. 🙂

    • Kirsten says:

      Mantha – You are absolutely correct. If you can communicate with teenagers, you’ll be able to communicate with anyone 🙂

      I remember reading a book called “How to talk to teenagers so they will listen, and listen to teenagers so they will talk” – hope I got the title right – it was a gem – i would recommend it to anyone with teenagers.

  3. Sherri says:

    Good article and so true. Reminds me of when I say to my husband, “the trash needs to go out”. Trash doesn’t have needs. I do. So why don ‘t I just be more clear and say “I need you to take out the trash please”

    • Kirsten says:

      Brilliant example Sherri! It may also be useful to add a deadline as in “I need you to take out the trash please before dinner”

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