Michael Piperno

Listening is a Powerful Tool

You, Me, and No-one Else

I’ve got some terrific mentors. I’m lucky. I think of two of them often, especially when I’m trying to be sure I listen well and avoid rushing others. And, as a creative person, it’s sometimes hard to stay in the moment and listen when the thing that someone else is saying is sparking a great idea in my head.

But, there’s a place for brainstorming and collaborating, and there’s a place for listening quietly — and absorbing.

Try it.

Focus on your coworker, client, partner, child, or parent today. Listen to what is said, and zoom in on the feelings behind the words. Make him or her feel like in that very moment and for as long as is needed to finish your conversation, there’s nothing else in the world that matters. Your full attention is a wonderful gift, and a powerful communications tool.

Photo by Luke Ellis-Craven on Unsplash
Airlines and Ease in Communications

Airline Miles and a Good Lesson About Ease

The hardest and most important aspect of good communication is making sure the human on the other side can understand it. Actually, not only understand, but relate to it. At Imbue, one of the most satisfying times we experience is when we see the faces of our clients light up after we nail the words and visuals that tell their brand’s story with extreme clarity. Clarity that is often so simple, it seems like it should have been obvious to everyone all along. When that happens, we know we’ve made it easier for them to tell their story, and we’ve made it even easier for their best audiences to want to join them on their journey.

I think about the subject of ease all the time when it comes to communication. Our audiences won’t spend time trying to decipher messages. We can’t make it hard — whether we’re communicating with colleagues, clients, or customers. We must be direct, honest, clear, empathetic, and often creative when we are trying to be heard as individuals and brands. Furthermore, we need to be sure that we don’t mislead anyone along the way.

This topic came to mind because last night I tried to book airline award travel with one of the largest airlines in the United States. The airline always touts that with just 25,000 miles you can get a free flight within the continental United States. Great! I’ve got over 100,000 points to use. Surely my partner and I can fly to California with coach class seats for less than 100,000 miles. Right?

Well, sort of. In order to travel at a reasonable hour and only connect once each way, we actually needed 120,000 miles (60,000 each). However, if we were willing to leave on a different day of the week, fly overnight, and connect through 2 different airports each way, I could have covered the trip with miles.

I was frustrated. Not only with the empty promise of being able to use miles on flights I would actually want to take, but also with a clunky user experience on the airline’s website that made trying to figure out how to calculate and book award travel a chore.

So, here’s an important reminder about ease for everyone in business. If you make it hard, your prospects will move on. If you make things difficult, your colleagues will either get frustrated with you, or simply tune you out. If you mislead people, your credibility will suffer. Make it easy on yourself and others by taking the time to make things as easy and clear as possible. And remember, sometimes you need an outsider’s perspective to ensure what you think seems easy actually is.

Try it.

Re-read a few emails or texts today and think about how you could have made your communications more tailored to the needs of the recipient so he or she could have processed and responded to you with greater ease. Could they have been shorter? Maybe they needed more context? Perhaps some of your messages were just too rushed or you made too many assumptions based on your state of mind (as opposed to the potential state of mind of whomever was getting the message).

If you’re in the design or development world, try to take yourself out of the role of creator and look at your work as someone inexperienced with your brand or product. Have you made the path to completion or comprehension as easy and frictionless as possible?

Photo by Anthony Melone on Unsplash
Am I Screaming?

Am I screaming? Or does all caps work here?

So here we are, my first post on a blog that I’ve been thinking about starting for two years. This blog is going to be about effective communication—at least that’s the idea. The plan is to share short thoughts and tips about how we can all be better in our professional and personal lives by taking the time to communicate clearly and kindly. And, I want to hear from you along the way. What tips and advice or experiences can you share? Be sure to let me know.

Honestly, I’m fine with whatever this blog morphs into, as long as it continues to mean something to me while connecting with others who I can help. You see, I’m an educator at heart. There is nothing I enjoy more than helping people be the best selves they can be. I plan to post thoughts about my experiences and observations on this blog in the hopes that the things I share will help you, and those you communicate with, be more clear, more efficient, and more effective.

I do believe that there is a fundamental problem in today’s business world—we’re all moving too fast and the lines of communication are becoming more and more fragmented. We have so many tools at our disposal to make communication more efficient yet we seem to be less efficient and less human. Let’s change that together. I don’t think it’s impossible, but I do think we need to be better at being more patient and considerate of our wonderful and necessary differences. Differences that include how we listen, how we empathize, how we use words, how we see the future, and how we react to each other.

Something as simple as how we type an email or a quick text message can make a difference. Much of our communication is done through a keyboard; and while I do love words (they are so very, very powerful), words can be construed in so many different ways. Without face-to-face interaction, there is so much potential for misunderstanding in every piece of communication.

Lesson number one in my training as a communications professional was all about the receiver. What are you trying to say, and how do you make sure those who are meant to receive your message understand it? A short, four-word email can come off as curt or angry to some and as remarkably efficient to others. The wrong emoji can seriously confuse someone on the other end of your text message. Considering the nature of your message, the person receiving it, and the different ways the message can be construed is step one. Often, it only takes a few more seconds of thought and consideration to make a message clearer, and more tailored to the receiver to ensure what you mean to say comes through.

Try it.

Take just one moment more with each text or email you send today. One quick moment each time. Reread your words and think about the human on the other side of each communication. I’ll bet you will find that it makes a difference.


Mini Focus Group: This site is new. I really like (visually) the blog headlines in all capital letters, mainly because that matches my logo nicely. However, all caps online has long conveyed yelling. Are my headlines screaming at you? Let me know by taking this one-question survey.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash.
Scroll to Top