Communicate Early, Communicate Often

Think of a time you assumed your expectations about a project or service were made clear, but you ended up with a result gone horribly wrong. You intended to communicate effectively, only to find out the message was misinterpreted or missed altogether.

There’s the time I hired a plumber to repair a leak underneath the kitchen sink. He was here for one hour and sent me a bill for $719. He gave the pipes a vasectomy without my knowledge. At least that’s the only reasonable explanation.

Or the time I asked for an “up-do” for my wedding portraits and my hairdresser made me look like Bridezilla from 1987. That portrait ended up in the Houston Chronicle.

But nothing illustrates the importance of clear communication like what happened to me yesterday.

Every eight weeks I visit my dermatologist’s office for a HydraFacial. Moisturizing antioxidants are infused into the skin. No biggie. I’m in and out in twenty minutes.

Soon after arriving at the office yesterday I was reclined, relaxed, and talking about spring break with my esthetician, Ella. I casually mentioned that my skin has felt dull lately. Lackluster. But that it was probably mental, because I had just celebrated another birthday.

The next thing I knew Ella handed me a small fan and instructed me to hold it close to my face. Strange, I thought to myself. We’ve never done this before.

Ella then wiped a cotton square all over my face. Same thing she does to cleanse my skin prior to our routine HydraFacials.

“How is your pain level, on a scale of 1 to 10, are you at about a 4 right now?” Ella asked.

Pain level? In my comfy cozy facial chair? Pushing down the anxiety rising up in my chest I replied,

“Um, I’d say my skin is tingling quite a bit. Like a mild sting. Why?”

She continued, “Okay, you’re doing great. Expect to be at a 9 after this next application.”

A 9 on the pain scale? During a facial? What. Is. Happening. I tried not to panic.

Within seconds my face went from tingling to on fire. NO. More like I had taken a dive head first into the Lake of Fire. The underworld. HADES ITSELF.

“So, what are we doing today?” I nervously asked.

“Oh, I’m just giving you a light chemical peel.” Ella replied, as nonchalantly as if she’d told me the sky was blue.


Back up 3 months to the time Ella asked me if I wanted to do a chemical peel. I emphatically said no. My skin is sensitive and I’m afriad of looking like a deranged lobster. Or a snake shedding its skin in winter. Or worse. Sigourney Weaver in the movie Alien.

How I went in for a HydraFacial and came out with a chemcial peel is still a mystery. But you can learn from my facial disaster. When managing a project, or hiring anyone to provide a service, remember these guidelines:

  • Communicate early. Set expectations at the very beginning of a project or service. Be clear about what you want and what you’re willing to pay for.
  • Communication often. Check in periodically to make sure the expectations were understood the first time. Remind as needed.
  • Confirm details before work begins. Review what’s been agreed upon before a project kicks off or services are rendered. Take it from me, fire-face woman.
  • Don’t make assumptions. It makes an ass out of u and me.

So. I anticipate my skin to start peeling off tomorrow and continue doing so like a snake for three days.

Dear local friends: please give an empathetic smile, grimace if you must, and look away. I will pretend I don’t know you at the grocery store.

One more thing. I better look ten years younger by Monday or I’m moving to Canada where I can wear a ski mask in March. In the meantime, I might audition for a cameo appearance on The Walking Dead. Wish me luck.

When have you had a project or service go horribly wrong? What did you learn from it?



  1. Oh no! This is the second time I’ve heard almost this SAME story in less than two weeks! I used to get monthly chemical peels, until I found my favorite new products. 😉 Totally had a similar experience though years ago with my very first peel. My boyfriend (at the time) and I decided to get one together, the day before my uncle’s birthday (super bad idea). The aesthetician told us we wouldn’t peel for at least three days so we were “safe”. (Side Note: we were avid swimmers – like Barton Springs Polar Bear club wannabes.) The day of my uncle’s birthday, we decided to take a quick swim before heading out to the big family dinner at Sienna. Bad idea. Not only was our aesthetician wrong about how quickly we would begin to peel, but she also failed to mention that getting our faces wet would expedite the process. Oye. All I can say is we looked like a couple of freaks. Peeling facial skin flapping in the air conditioner breeze in the restaurant….Not. A. Pretty. Sight. I promise to only smile at you with empathy this week. 🙂 xo

  2. Yikes. Here’s a communication tip I received from one of my favorite former executives: “When you think you’ve said it too many times, that is likely when people have just begun to hear you.” In organizational communication he’s often right; in personal communication I am not sure this is wrong. A word to the wise is often NOT sufficient.

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