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Everything Speaks

November 17, 2020

I recently ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant known for its great food.

But when I walked in the door, it felt a little too much like a hole in the wall—neglected and dirty. There were crumbs on the table, the chairs felt sticky, and trash sat visibly on the floor. And I won’t begin to describe what the bathroom looked like.

It was clear they believed their food was so good that it didn’t matter what the rest of the place looked like. To them, it was part of their charm. To me, it just felt gross. Even though the food was good, it was hard to enjoy it. 

It was a good reminder for me that everything speaks. When you walk into a business, you’re processing so much more than the product you’re purchasing. You’re impacted by the aesthetic, the cleanliness, the colors, the tone of the person talking to you, and their personal appearance. All of these things are affecting your impression of the organization. Small things often communicate something much bigger.

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “The handshake of the host affects the taste of the roast.” In other words, a positive or negative first impression can impact a person’s whole experience. If the restaurant is dirty, it’s going to be hard to enjoy their good food. On the other hand, if the restaurant is pristine and the waiter is especially hospitable, the food may even seem better than it really is!

If everything speaks, what are you missing? What are the small things you have overlooked that are communicating something bigger?

In a business, it’s not just about the quality of your product. It’s the way your customer service representatives answer the phone and the speed at which they respond to emails. It’s your team’s attentiveness to guests and hospitality toward everyone who walks through the door. These small things communicate care.

At a church, we can make sure the music is great, the sermon is good, and the production is perfect, but if a guest feels ignored by the person sitting next to them, those other things will be overshadowed. It’s not just about how the service goes or how the church looks, it matters that someone feels welcomed.

At home, you may be great at giving words of affirmation to your spouse, but you often forget to put your dirty coffee cup in the dishwasher in the morning. It’s a small thing, but when you remember to do it, it communicates care. You’re not leaving extra work for your spouse to do for you.

Just to be clear, this blog isn’t about being nit-picky. We should be gracious with one another. We shouldn’t obsess over the small things, but we shouldn’t ignore them either. Small things really can communicate big things. 

I’ve heard it said,

“What you’re doing speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

This week, ask yourself what small pieces of your organization have you overlooked? Work to identify the little things in your personal and professional life that are speaking. Are they saying what you want them to say? If not, it’s time to help the little things in your life reflect what you believe.


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