“You mean you BLEW it up,” I explained to my five-year-old who was holding a balloon. She looked at me like I was a fence post. “No, dad. I blowed it up.”

Mom interjected, “If we don’t use words properly, people won’t know what we’re saying.”

Now our daughter was looking at a fence row, and said, “If I know what I’m saying how come other people won’t know what I’m saying?”


Do you know anyone who uses the same “I know what I said – you should too” approach to communication? Their words are nebulous and often require decoding. They state, “Do a good job.” (What’s a “good” job?) They declare, “Quality is imperative!” (What constitutes quality?) They insist, “This is a top priority.” (But where does it stand amongst my other top priorities?)

And here’s an all-time favorite: they ask, “Do you understand?” (How do I know if I understand or not?)


The most effective amongst us don’t use coded language. They simplify the dialogue in three steps:

  1. They share what’s important to them;
  2. They state why it’s important;
  3. And then the special step: they verify alignment by asking questions.

Here are effective de-coding and alignment questions:

  • What does success look like to you?
  • How will you measure progress?
  • How would you restate these objectives from your perspective?
  • What do you feel are the most important action steps today?
  • What standard will you use to assess your work?

If we don’t ask alignment questions, there’s little wonder why we might blowed it up.

What is the difference between what “might be” and what “can be”?  You decide.

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