Picture this. Early morning. Hotel. Looking forward to a good cup of tea - for which read lots of good cups of tea. I mean, I had slept (for which read I hadn’t slept) on a hotel bed that night and was feeling sleepy, in real need of a caffeine fix. So the waitress offers me a small pot of tea. You know, one of those things that’s so small that it barely fills one cup. Politely, I ask for a large pot instead.
The waitress appears. Large pot of tea. I feel a sense of excitement. Excellent. She leaves the pot on the table and I lift it to pour. Oh…feels unexpectedly light. :/ Weird. Lift the lid and look inside. Tiny amount of hot water, enough to fill one cup, with 4 tea bags floating in it. Strong as treacle. So I call her back. Ask her to fill the pot to the top with hot water. Wait again in hopeful anticipation.
Waitress reappears with the large pot in hand. Puts it on the table and walks away. It’s heavy this time. Yes. Excitement. Lift the lid just to check. Pot full of clear, hot water, no tea bags. Aaargh. Call the waitress back. ‘Could I have 3 tea bags please?’ Waitress looks bemused, that make-your-mind-up look. Comes back with 3 tea bags. Tries to take the pot away. I grab it with both hands…
What was going on here? Peter Cotterell, comms guru, calls this being in different ‘presuppositional pools’. I had an idea in mind, what I wanted, and assumed the waitress would get that without my explaining it. She, on the other hand, had a very different idea of what I meant. We were in very different pools without even realising it. So, what was your best-worst communication gaff?
Nick Wright is a coach and consultant, specialising in reflective practice.