STUBBORN: I really want that thing that doesn’t have anything to do with my goal

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The other day I had to send some paperwork to an out-of-state law enforcement agency. They didn’t require me to send it a certain way but I wanted to make sure that I knew when the letter arrived.

So of course I went to the post office and said that I would like to send this letter by “registered mail.” (That’s the right term – yes?)

“Do you mean registered mail or certified mail?” the friendly lady behind the counter asked.

No idea! Registered sounded like the right answer to me.

She certainly had heard that request before and like some others who have said that I had no idea what the difference was. But there is a difference and really it’s a classic case of people jumping to the answer before ever stating their problem.

No worries. We know. Until we talk to the people who actually know.

This is like the chief marketing officer going up to the design team and asking for a trifold brochure. Not because the trifold brochure is actually the right mechanism for whatever they’re trying to accomplish but they think it’s the answer to their problem because they remembered trifold brochures.

And of course knowing the answer and blurting it out even when it’s not the right one feels like we are knowing more than explaining goals and collaborating. Collaboration is hardly ever about knowing the answer.

In the case of the post office, I actually could care less what it’s called but I care about what it does. And in this case all I needed was a tracking number so I can go online and make sure I have a record of when they signed for the letter.

So really what I should’ve said is that I want to send a letter that I can track. How much does that cost?

The same concept also applies and can be used in digital marketing, digital transformation and really anything in business that’s undergoing change.

I recommend this process ⬇️

Communication checklist:

  • Identify problem/goal
  • State it “I don’t want that letter to get lost.”
  • Ask for a solution
  • Price
  • Decide

My design friends, some of them have created too many trifold brochures I’m sure, probably know and recognize this epidemic of solutions without collaboration or discussion.

I’m the first to admit that I have fallen down the thinking to know the answer trap.

And even if I know the latest answer sometimes stating the problem can also help us uncover new ideas and new services.

Let’s say the Postal Service has a new way of tracking letters but I’m so stuck on one specific term I might never learn of it.

Also, registered mail is about four times as expensive as certified mail, which is really what I needed. So being too much in the know and stuck on an answer might even cost more money.

And while not everything needs to become at 12-step plan, this five-step communication strategy really doesn’t take that long and just changes a couple of interactions along the way.

So reminder to self:

  • More questions
  • Transparency about goals and intent
  • Take time to listen

And as a bonus: you can thank people for helping you find the best solution to reach your goal.

That feels good and for you the best solution.