In the last week, I have been involved in two very different problem-solving experiences. I almost felt like I was a character in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Do you remember that series? Back in the 80s and 90s, these “gamebooks” (that is actually what they were called) let the reader become an integral part of the story and along the way, make different choices that would impact the characters and plot. The books offered a variety of plot twists and endings, some happy and some not-so-happy. In my first “story,” I called the IRS to figure out a tax question about etc Strategies. A young man answered the phone stating his name (Josh) and his identification number (which is entirely too long for me to remember). Josh asked how he could help me, and as I began my “story” (and as you can tell from my blogs, I LOVE to tell a story!), Josh listened carefully and asked very specific questions to get a clear understanding of my problem. He did not rush me or try to complete my answers with his own ideas. After very clearly answering my original question, Josh went on to inform me of a few other issues that may come up with a new business and taxes. He even offered a bit of advice about how to handle the issues and encouraged me to write down any helpful information. After about 15 minutes, Josh ended the call by encouraging me to call back with any other questions. Now I don’t know about you, but I have always heard that talking to the IRS was a nightmare. In my story, the opposite occurred. Josh’s patience, engagement in the discussion, attention and focus, and expert knowledge helped that 15 minutes to be productive and informative, and both the IRS and I benefitted from that discussion. I will now turn in the right form saving the IRS and myself time and effort (and most importantly, money). Now in my second “story” things did not run as smoothly. After numerous internet outages at my house, I called Comcast to see if we could figure out the issue. Don’t jump on Comcast yet -- things did work out in the end, but not with the first representative. Instead of listening carefully to my explanation and detailed timeline of the problems, the rep immediately responded that he would take certain steps to fix my problem and put me on hold. But he never really listened to understand, so those steps did not work. He then transferred me to the next level of service. Luckily, this representative listened and asked questions to get the complete picture and helped me figure out what to do. This phone call involved 2 different reps and lasted over 35 minutes, and although my problem was eventually solved, all parties wasted valuable time and effort. In both of these experiences, I feel like the representatives chose how my “story” would go and how it would end. Josh chose to use important communication strategies to completely understand the problem to more effectively help me to solve it. The first Comcast rep chose to not listen, to not ask questions, and to not allow me to share very specific details important to the problem-solving. Just like the characters in the book series, these choices changed my experiences, and I had no real control over my “story.” So today’s communication lesson is this -- others’ choices can make or break a communication experience. But etc Strategies believes that YOU should always choose the best communication strategies. Even if your “story” does not end the way you want it to, know that you did everything you could to create a successful communication experience. Maybe your choices can change the “story” to a happier ending, but if that doesn’t happen, turn the page and move on to the next adventure. There are so many stories out there waiting for you.