It’s Friday so we’re back to food! Today’s discussion is how one cooking term can mean something totally different to two different people, a lesson which, of course, I think extends to business as well. I had a chat the other day with someone about cooking a particular dish and they referred to it as “barbecued”. I asked them what they meant because that’s one of those nebulous terms that can mean any of several things depending on the speaker’s point of reference. He actually meant “grilled”, or cooked over open coals, generally with direct heat for a brief period of time. To me, “barbecue” is a food, not a cooking technique. However, if it signifies anything, it means food cooked over low, indirect heat, generally for a long period of time.
How often does the same thing mean two totally different things to the participants in a conversation? Probably more often than we’d like. In cooking, one cook might say to a helper “saute those veggies for me” when they really mean “sweat” them. Two totally different results. In business that sort of confusion can be fatal.
People who work together for a long time seem to assume that they can read each other’s minds: I know what you mean and you always know what I mean. I think we’ve all played the game of “telephone” at some point and it becomes painfully obvious that what you send out if often not received properly. I used to have subordinates repeat things back to me and NOT use the exact words I did to be sure that they understood me. You’d be shocked how often they didn’t, which is as much my fault as theirs.