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Sometimes, it's all in the delivery

HICKAM AFB, HI -- Some people just seem to have a gift when it comes to communicating with people, while others seem to communicate in a fashion consistent with fingernails running down a chalkboard. So what makes some folks more successful than others?

Why are some people able to get others to "climb on board" to support even the most difficult or menial of tasks? The secret, I think, is in their delivery. 

There's something to the old adage "you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar." I'm not suggesting "sweet-talking" people into supporting you. There's way more to it than that ... but, being nice to someone as you communicate certainly helps the process along. When I was a branch chief for warehouse operations in Panama in the mid-'80s, I was walking through one of our larger warehouses and heard some yelling. When I turned the corner, I came across a master sergeant telling a young two-striper who had asked, "why are we doing that sarge?" and the old sergeant was pointing to the stripes on his sleeve and saying, "because these stripes say so." Did he get the young Airman to accomplish the task? Yes. Was it the best way to get the job done? NO. 

While there are occasions where, "Because the sarge said so" is the right answer, had he taken a few minutes to explain why the task needed to be accomplished the young airman would have understood the logic and probably accomplished it with a whole lot more enthusiasm. As it was, he did a half-baked job swearing under his breath the entire time. Don't ever sell short good old common courtesy ... or a smile, for that matter. 

During another assignment at Seymour Johnson AFB, I once came across a maintenance chief who had "the gift." This guy had the savvy to get a room full of people jumping up and down at the thought of volunteering to shovel a pile of manure from one side of the road to the other. Why? Because he made people feel important and let them know how their efforts impacted the mission. While he could have easily ordered people around, he chose instead to invest a little extra time and get people to "buy into" accomplishing the task. 

It's also important to keep things simple when communicating with others, particularly if you're trying to get something done. Sometimes making your game plan too complex confuses the listener and ends up backfiring because no one on the execution end understands what needs to be done. So use the KISS system -- Keep It Simple, Stupid. You'll be amazed how much easier it is to get a task completed when you use this approach. 

One last tip ... BE enthusiastic when communicating. While stationed at Altus our MSG had a chief enlisted manager who had such a positive and enthusiastic attitude that people just wanted to be around him. He made them feel excited and proud to be in the Air Force and literally had people lined up to help him on whatever project he had going. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm! 

So, whether at home or work, in the Air Force or in the civilian world, when you need to get the point across, get something accomplished, or simply have to deliver a message ... remember, it's all in the delivery.

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