Years ago in college, I had a professor who told us that one of the biggest challenges we would ever have in life regarding business or relationships was being clear. Being an older man, he said that as he had reflected back over his own life, he was amazed to discover how many problems could have been averted or easily resolved if someone had just taken the time to be a little clearer at the outset. That professor’s statement made a huge impression on me at the time and continues to do so to this very day. And, now, many years later, I have come to the conclusion that he was right. Going out of your way to be extra clear is one of the major keys to success in any endeavor in life. The challenge is – most people don’t really know how to do it.
Recently, I needed to get some very important information to someone by email. The person had hand-written his email address on a piece of paper, but I could not read it. I asked to help me decipher it. Everyone saw something different. I have no doubt that the gentleman thought he had written his email address clearly enough as to be easily read by anyone, but that was simply not the case. I had to spend extra time, effort and energy trying to locate his correct email address so I could send the information he requested. If he had taken just a few extra seconds to actually be clear, it could have saved a lot of time and effort. (Please realize that I am not saying this to beat anyone up. I am simply making a point about things that we can do to make matters go better for ourselves and others!)
In 1977 there were two airplanes on the runway in the Canary Islands waiting to take off. The fog was unusually heavy that morning making it difficult for either of the pilots or those in the air traffic control tower to see clearly what was taking place. According to flight records, the air traffic controller spoke with one of the pilots saying, “I think there is another plane about to turn onto your runway. Let me check and I will get back with you.” The pilot responded by saying, “Okay.” The air traffic controller in the tower responded back with an “okay” of his own. Unfortunately, the pilot misunderstood, thinking that the air traffic controller’s last “okay” meant that he was cleared for take off, so he proceeded to race down the runway. Just as the second plane was turning into its path, the pilot of the first plane saw through the fog and tried to lift his plane to avoid the crash. He was not successful. The tail of the first plane clipped the second one with such force that a total of 583 people lost their lives.
When the review and investigation of the accident was completed, the error was blamed on the first pilot because he failed to say the word, “Rolling,” which indicated that he was taxiing down the runway, preparing to take off. Instead, he had answered, “Okay,” and was never cleared for take off by the air traffic controller.
It is so sad to me that 583 people were killed because of a misunderstanding like that. One word, “Okay” was really NOT okay! It was a tragedy that could have been avoided if the people involved had taken the time to be extra clear.
Although certainly not as tragic, situations like that occur in our life every day. There are so many miscommunications between employers and employees, between parents and children, and between spouses because someone does not take a few extra minutes to be clear.
I have often been accused of treating everyone as children because I go over things so many times and I always apologize because that is not my purpose or intent. However, I would rather be accused of treating someone as a child and get things right than to assume that everyone understands what we are trying to accomplish and end up having errors, misunderstandings, mistakes, hurt feelings and problems occur during the process which keep us from accomplishing our goal.
In my opinion, being clear is one of the hallmarks of life, but very few people take the time to do this simple activity. It seems to irritate people to go over things several times in order to make them clear. Yet, if you don’t have time to get things right in the first place, how will you have time do them over again when you realize there has been a misunderstanding or a mistake?
How much time would it have taken for the air traffic controller and the pilot of the first plane to be certain they were clear in their communication? A few extra few minutes could have saved all those people’s lives and given them many more years to enjoy with their families and friends.
If you want to write me off as being a fanatic or a “nut” about being clear about things, than that is okay. You have every right to do that. All I know is that I have enjoyed the benefits of this Tip for almost fifty years. I am grateful to my college professor who taught us the importance of being clear if we want to have a successful and productive life. Not only was he right in what he told us that day, but the experience of my own life has proven it to be true.
I hope you will see the value and importance of using this Tip. If you have any doubts about what I just said, please re-read the entire Tip and it will become even more clear the next time you read it. See, I’m being extra clear again right now! It takes time, effort and energy to go out of your way to be extra clear, but it will have a profound influence on everything you do!
Tip: Be extra clear and watch things in your own life clear up!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm