Recently, my wife and I were watching the World Cup on TV.
Well actually, I was watching it and Cathy was tolerating it.
Eventually she said to me, “Why does the referee keep blowing his whistle every time the other team look like scoring?”
I said, “Because the player’s offside.”
She looked at me blankly.
She said, “What does that mean?”
I thought unless I can explain this, we’re in serious danger of having the TV switched over to The Cooking Channel.
And I remembered once hearing the best way to describe the offside rule to a woman.
So I said, “Imagine you’re in a shoe shop, and there’s a pair of shoes you really want.
And a salesgirl is standing at the counter, waiting to sell them to the first person to get there.
But another woman wants the shoes too.
And she’s racing you to get to the salesgirl, and the shoes, first.
Suddenly you realise you’ve forgotten your purse.
So you shout to your friend who’s standing behind you to throw you your purse.
Now if she throws the purse before you overtake the other woman, you can race to the counter and buy the shoes.
But if she throws the purse after you’ve overtaken the other woman, you’re offside, and you can’t have the shoes.
To put it simply, you can’t go past the other woman until your friend throws you your purse.
Now think of your purse as the ball.
Think of the shoes as the goal.
Think of the salesgirl as the goalkeeper.
And the other woman as the defender.
The forward can’t go past the last defender until the ball is kicked towards him.
If he does he’s offside and the referee blows the whistle.”
And you know what?
Cathy concentrated and watched the game.
And when they did the offside replay graphic she said, “Oh, I get it.”
See, that’s how it is with communication.
We have to take information and put it into a form that the other person can understand.
That means translating it for them.
Unless we put it into the other person’s language we’re just talking to ourselves.
I’d been having a lot of trouble with my elbow.
Being a bloke I just wanted it fixed.
Being a bloke, I have a very mechanical approach to things.
So I went to my GP and said, “Can I have an operation to fix my elbow?”
The GP said, “You may not need an operation, you may just need a chiropractor.”
And he gave me an address.
I was cynical, but I thought I’d give it a go and then, when it didn’t work, I’d have the operation.
So I went to a place in Hampstead called Natural Health Chiropractic.
It confirmed all my worst fears.
Potted plants everywhere, nice music playing, leaflets on healthy eating, posters about yoga and alternative therapies.
I said to the receptionist, “I bet most of your clients are women aren’t they?”
She said, “We do get quite a few men, but usually because their wives make them come. How did you know?”
I said, “Just a guess.”
Then a nice young Australian chiropractor examined me.
Being a bloke, I expected her to look at my elbow.
But she didn’t.
She checked my neck, my shoulders, my spine, my balance, my posture, my blood pressure, even my toes.
All before she even looked at my elbow.
Eventually she said, “I think we’ll need to work on the area between your neck and your shoulders.”
I said, “Why? The problem’s in my elbow.”
She said, “Think of it as garden hose. If there are kinks in the hose nothing can flow through. I think you’ve got kinks at the neck and shoulder. If we remove those kinks you’ll get a much better flow to the elbow.”
Now I don’t know if this is true.
But, because she put it is simple language I could understand, it made sense to me.
Suddenly I wasn’t quite so cynical.
She knew the way to communicate with me wasn’t about Chakras and energy centres, and complementary medicine.
So she put it into ordinary, blue-collar language.
And because it made sense I’m going to go along for a few weeks and see if it works.
She sold me, not telling me in her language.
But by putting it into my language.
See communication isn’t just about speaking correctly.
Communication is about being heard correctly.