Raul received an email from his CEO. Patricia assigned him a special research project. A rapid one-week turn-around, and it was a challenging project, to boot.

Raul is the Head of one of his company’s 4 Business Units. A $ 500 million a year revenue-producer. No small stuff.

Got it, was Raul’s email response.

Clear. Efficient. Affirmative. Neutral. And pretty darn lazy.

What did Patricia really need to hear from Raul? After a bit of brainstorming, here’s where we landed: That Raul was excited to work on this. That he was confident he’d get it done in time. That he saw the value of this project. That he was pleased she asked him to work on this. Or that he might perhaps need some guidance to get it done.

A lot more color. NOT neutral.

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.

Peter Drucker

NEUTRAL is the epitome of transactional communication. It gets it done. Does not ever enhance a relationship.

I used to be an acting teacher at some big acting schools in New York. Here’s one of the first things a novice actor learns in acting class: Yes, you study your lines. But what really matters is the stuff behind the words. The subtext. The subtext that you create for the character you play. And the subtext you discern in the character you interact with.

The subtext of all that isn’t being said.

Want to un-lazy your business communications? Start by listening for what isn’t being said. Enhance your own messages by adding a bit of color to what you communicate.

Stop Being a Button Pusher

LinkedIn allows us to simply push a button these days to acknowledge a colleague’s new position, birthday or anniversary.


Push the button. Efficient. NEUTRAL. It gets us a button-pushing relationship. Nothing else.

I am happy for you. Powerful words, right? Surely more powerful than Congratulations!

My favorite variations:

I am so pleased for you (a bit more cautious).

I am thrilled for you (yes, over the top).

I am happy for you elevates the well-wishing. It puts ME into the congratulatory expression. And it gives the other person the gift of MY supportive emotion. An instant relationship enhancer.

Stop Eliminating the Emotion

I used to not say I am happy for you because I didn’t know how to be truly happy for you. And I didn’t know how to say it.

Sad, yes. I think of this as I dine with my friend Brian. While we gorge on heaps of sushi our conversation takes us on a trip down memory lane, to a time when we both lived in the same cities but our paths had not yet crossed. It is one of those delicious conversations in which one discovers new things about a friend.

And new things about oneself.

I so enjoyed this conversation we just had. I used to not know how to say it. I couldn’t say it because I didn’t feel it.

My business relationships are so much better now than they were back in the days. I have learned to pay attention to the emotional dimension of everything I do. Feel it. And when helpful, explicitly state it:

  • Shift out of neutral.
  • Take an emotional risk.
  • To take the risk, you gotta feel it first.
  • Because NEUTRAL gets you nothing but relationships that don’t matter.

“The quality of your communication is the quality of your life.

Anthony Robbins

Here’s where Raul landed in his enhanced response to Patricia: Thank you for challenging me with this project. I’m excited to work on it. Can’t wait to share the results with you!

More color. No longer in NEUTRAL. More color = more of YOU. That’s how we enhance, enrich, and charge a relationship with genuine energy.

Go ahead. Un-lazy your relationships. Listen for what isn’t being said. Have the courage name it.

I’m a theater guy, so I leave you with this quote from the illustrious George Bernard Shaw: The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

Yup. Step out of the illusion. Ignoring the buttons is a very fine start.