By Nancy Friedman, Customer Service Expert; President, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training

Communications: Define the word Noun

1. The imparting or exchanging of information or news.
“Direct communication between the two countries will produce greater understanding.”
Synonyms: transmission, conveyance, divulgence, disclosure

  • A letter or message containing information or news.
    plural noun: communications
    synonyms: Message, statement, announcement, report, dispatch, communiqué, letter, bulletin, correspondence
    “an official communication”

2. Means of connection between people or places, in particular.

  • The means of sending or receiving information, such as telephone lines or computers.
    plural noun: communications
    Hmmmmm. Notice anything missing?
    mis·com·mu·ni·ca·tion ˌmiskəˌmyo͞onəˈkāSHən/
    plural noun: miscommunications

3. Failure to communicate adequately.

  • Communication. Failure to communicate adequately. Many of us may recall the famous line in the Paul Neuman / George Kennedy Movie; “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” (CoolHand Luke if you haven’t seen it.)
  • You can repeat something over and over and if the person still doesn’t get it; it’s pretty obvious then it’s time to re-phrase it for clearer communications.
    I hear about failure to communicate, a lot, within companies. And even sometimes, within our own company.
  • If I were to have written the definition of “communications” I might have written: Words and phrases that are taken differently than we meant them.
    Saw a sign at a restaurant/gas station years ago: “Eat here and get gas.”
    And sadly, oftentimes ‘mis-combinations’ are really mistakes. It means: “Well what I meant to say was ….” Then why didn’t we say what we meant?
    Even signage can miscommunicate. They often don’t say what they really mean or they’re not very clear. This is very apparent at airports. The signage at so many is not very clear. Which means  communications aren’t very good. They tend to use ‘airport jargon,’ not travel jargon.
    Example, at the Milwaukee airport there is a sign that says: “Recombobulate Area.”
    recombobulate – Verb
    (third-person singular simple present recombobulates, present participle recombobulating, simple past and past participle recombobulated)

1. (uncommon) To cause to think clearly again; to reorient; to put back into working order.

2. (intransitive) To (come to) think clearly again; to reorient oneself; to get (oneself) back into working order.

Ok, Ok, cute, clever, but I asked a lot of folks what that meant. NO ONE KNEW. Yet, I bet who ever put the sign up knew. And sure a few others. But Mr. and Mrs. Travel Person may not.

Why not use: RELAXING AREA. That could have done it. Or: PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER AREA might have said it. But Recombobulate? Cute, but not too clear.

Communications and miscommunications are widely spread in business today.

What’s the worst “miscommunication” you’ve experienced?

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman

Nancy Friedman, customer service keynote speaker, is founder and chairman of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training and a featured speaker at franchise, association, and corporate meetings around the world. A popular TV guest, she appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, CNN, FOX News, Good Morning America and CBS This Morning, as well as hundreds of other radio, television and print outlets around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. The author of 9 books on her chosen topics, Nancy helps corporate America improve their communications with their customers & co-workers.