When I was a little girl, my Grandpa seemed bigger than life to my siblings and myself. He was almost a hero to us. He was handsome and smart and well liked. He had a voice that was big, deep and strong…a voice that commanded attention. We had a wonderful Sunday afternoon ritual at our house. Grandpa would come over for dinner. So, after church, the family would stay neat and clean in our Sunday best and Mom would make roast beef with potatoes and green beans.
And we would wait for Grandpa.
When Grandpa arrived, he would be all dressed up in a starched white shirt with gleaming cufflinks that peered out from under the sleeves of a well tailored sport coat. Grandpa had perfectly coiffed white hair and a beautiful smile and he smelled clean…like fresh laundry. His trousers sported a crease so sharp that you could practically cut your finger on it. While Grandpa adored all of his grandchildren, he came from an era where children where seen and not heard…and we knew and respected that. When Grandpa came over, no one spoke…we all listened.
One of Grandpa’s favorite ways to express affection to us kids was to hold us on his lap and tell us that he had a secret for us. He’d then whisper into our eager ears, “crazy about you”. He said it in such a way that it came out sounding like “crazy boutcha”. The three of us children knew that each time we saw Grandpa, eventually Grandpa would tell us the secret he had for us…that he was “crazy boutcha”.
One weekday, our family of five was finishing dinner. In those days, you didn’t fly from the dinner table when you were finished…you stayed and talked. My little sister, who was a sweet and easy going toddler, jumped up onto our Dad’s welcoming lap and leaned up to his ear and whispered something. He paused, and laughed a little and asked her to say that again. Shyly, she said to my Dad “Crazy Butcher”. We all giggled in our puzzlement. Dad gently asked her, what do you mean by “Crazy Butcher”? Knowing that she was facing giggles at her expense, in a very small voice she said, “that’s what Grandpa tells me…crazy butcher” There was a look of knowing between my Mom and Dad as they, I am sure, suppressed smiles. Dad quietly told my little sister that Grandpa was telling each of us that he was crazy ABOUT you….not crazy butcher.
One of the interesting things, to me, about this story is that my little sister was far too young to even begin to comprehend what the two words crazy butcher really meant. She had no idea what a butcher was let alone a crazy one. But…and here’s the interesting part…she picked up on the message’s meaning based on the way the message was transmitted. Grandpa’s affectionate tone as he said those foreign sounding words to my sister WAS the message. It didn’t matter that she didn’t know the difference between “crazy butcher” and “crazy about you”. She just knew that it was something loving and wonderful and that she loved when Grandpa shared that message with her and she wanted to pass that loving message on to my Dad.
So, while content may be king, in our day to day communications with our patients and customers, sometimes how the message is delivered is just as important to achieve the desired outcome. Sometimes your words may sound like “crazy butcher” to your customer or patients but if you’ve delivered “crazy butcher” in a way that says “crazy about you”, then you’ve achieved your outcome.
Have you had experiences where the content was confusing but the message was clear? Is delivery an important aspect of your message?
Oh, and, by the way….Crazy Butcher…