A recent headline captured my attention: “Sting Compromised by Affair.” I thought, “Sting had an affair??” For me, Sting is a rock star. In reality, the story was about a deceptive operation by the police designed to catch a criminal, otherwise known as a “sting”. After all, I was watching CNN, not “Entertainment Tonight.” It was a great reminder that in communications, context is as critical as content. At Thanksgiving dinner, after taking her first bite of stuffing, my mother put her fork down and said, “You know, I have a really great recipe for stuffing.” A week or two before the holiday, the comment would have caused no offense, and may have even been appreciated. But timing is everything in life, and feathers were ruffled.
Mindfulness is a habit that serves us well, whether in the board room, the bedroom or dinner table. As tempting as it may be to give feedback in the moment, here are some questions one might ask first: What message is intended? Will it help or hurt? Is now the right time? Would the recipient be more receptive later? Can I deliver it in a more thoughtful, more impactful way if I wait? More than ever, the availability of instant messaging, texts and emails makes context, content, tone and timing important elements of effective communication. Attention and intention may pave the way and save the day, or at the very least, the dinner.