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Communication Bloopers: Funny, But No Joke!

by Eric Garner

One of the commonest requirements on management recruitment advertisements is “excellent communication skills”. But do you often wonder what the recruiters really mean?

They might mean great presentational skills, the ability of managers to talk to a group and put their message across. They could mean good listening skills, or the ability to empathize with people at the less articulate regions of the business, or maybe someone with the charisma that gets others to do what they’re told.

One thing it probably doesn’t mean – but perhaps should – is the ability to use language in clear, unambiguous, and straightforward ways. For the use of the opposite is one of the commonest features of managers, as the following amusing examples will show you.

The computer world

The world of computers probably tops the list for not realizing that, even in our wired-up world, many customers still do not talk the same language as the computer-literate do.

  • An AST customer was asked by a manager to "send a copy of your defective disks to us". A few days later, a letter arrived from the customer with a xeroxed copy of the disks.

  • A Dell manager was giving some help to a customer and told him to put the disk in the drive and close the door. The customer told the manager to hold on and was heard to put the phone down, get up from their chair, cross the room and close the door.

  • Compaq management had to consider changing the phrase “Press any key” in all their manuals because of the flood of calls asking where the "Any” key was.

The political world

To read some of the bloopers made by senior politicians when giving speeches, you might just wonder how some of them made it to high office. Here are some classics:

  • "I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy. But that could change." -- Dan Quayle

  • "Now, like, I'm President. It would be pretty hard for some drug guy to come into the White House and start offering it up, you know? ... I bet if they did, I hope I would say, 'Hey, get lost. We don't want any of that.'" -- George Bush, talking about drug abuse to a group of students.

  • "I want to make sure everybody who has a job wants a job" --George Bush, during his first Presidential campaign.

The church

Some of the following were spoken from the pulpit. We can only imagine how long it took for someone in the congregation to be brave enough to start giggling:

  • "Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community."

  • "For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs."

  • "This afternoon there will be a meeting in the South and North ends of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends."

  • "Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk will please come early."

  • "This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the altar."

  • "The service will close with Little Drops of Water. One of the ladies will start quietly and the rest of the congregation will join in."

  • "Next Sunday a special collection will be taken to defray the cost of the new carpet. All those wishing to do something on the carpet should come forward and do so."

  • "The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They can be seen in the church basement on Saturday."

None of us is a perfect communicator no matter how hard we try. When the words come out wrongly, or we realize from the faces of our audience that we have just made a blooper, it’s probably best just to laugh with them and remember to do better next time.

© Eric Garner, ManageTrainLearn.com

Eric Garner is the MD of ManageTrainLearn, which started out as a management training company in 1996 and is now a leading innovator in the creation of e-learning products designed to help you become a better manager, better trainer and better learner. Visit the company's website to sample their fascinating free training resources. Subscribe to their entertaining and informative newsletter or sign up for their free 10-day Leadership Skills e-course by sending a blank email to leadership@freeautobot.com.

Some Related Articles:

Ten Worst Communication Blunders of 2009
Seven Worst Communication Blunders of 2008
My Top 10 Peeves in Spoken Communication

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