The other day I saw a friend put on the spot as he was asked to make a small impromptu speech. His opening remarks went something like this, “Good morning, I feel like that guy whose house caught on fire. He phoned the fire department to report his need for their services. The voice on the other end of the phone asked “How do we get there?’ to which my friend replied “well don’t you still have that little red truck?”

Like others in the room, I was struck by the humorous story. But once I ended my chuckle, I thought about how that little story is a great representation of why so many end up in conflict and disagreement. How easy it is in our language to misunderstand what we are being asked or told and even easier to confuse others with our statements.

The next time you hear what seems like a questionable question or statement, remember the story about the ‘little red truck’ and ask the other person a question or two to verify what is really being communicated. You may find that what you thought you were being asked or told isn’t quite the same thing the other person meant. And voila’, a miscommunication and the sometimes hard feelings that may accompany can be avoided.