A few weeks ago we were walking around the neighborhood and a little girl ran up to us.
She was about six years old and very cute even though she was sobbing. She had these little tears and a little stream of snot near her nose from the crying. She kept wiping her face through her sobs, and talking through the wiping.
"I'm lost! I'm lost!"
Her little brother stood next to her. If this kid was cute he was even cuter. He had mosquito bites all over his legs. One shoelace was untied. He seemed less unnerved than she was at the situation. He was scratching his head and looking around as though he'd never seen that street before.
"What's your name?" She told me her first name.
"Is that your brother?" "Yes." "What's his name?"
She told me.
"Where do you live?"
"In Brooklyn." (Geographically not close.)
I stood there worrying that we were talking to two very little children absent two grown-up parents. I did not know what we were dealing with.
But we had to help them. They could get kidnapped or even killed G-d forbid, the way drivers go without even stopping or looking.
"You came from up there," I gestured. "Why don't we walk back up." We started walking.
There was just one slight problem. Her little brother would not follow along.
She walked next to me - he ran forward, up to the next block.
He wouldn't stop. I lost sight of the kid.
But what could I do? He wasn't mine, right?
I couldn't grab him like a sack of potatoes and hold him.
So I started running, not all that fast at my age, but running.
Finally we got to the house where they were staying and handed the kids off to Mom, who waved thanks.
I thought of that incident this morning, because somebody asked me about crisis communication the other day.
And I mentioned how very often I can tell when a problem is coming. But more often than not, the person on the receiving end of that information just doesn't want to listen.
This is true whether we're talking about a personal conversation or a work one.
There is just something about the fact of warning another human being that leads them to reflexively say, "No thanks."
One last story. I had to go to the doctor the other day, and I asked a question about natural healing. About a supplement I had seen online and the research showing why it worked.
He took off his glasses and looked at me.
"I'm sitting here with more than 30 years of experience, and you think you can just Google what I know?"
I wasn't surprised as I've had doctors act defensive before, but it was the intensity that sort of shocked me.
Looking back on it now, I realize that there is a "best way" to tell someone something they don't want to hear.
Don't tell them about it in the first place!
Of course that is normally not possible. Because you'll need their permission to move forward.
So - assuming you're not dealing with a very little kid - just tell them in factual terms what needs fixing, and that you'll need their approval in order to proceed.
Your best is the best you can do.
* All opinions my own.