When I was about four years old, my parents drove the van through the drive-in part of the bank. After completing their business, they drove away. From the back seat, I piped up and asked, “Where are my fries?” Of course, I never would have imagined that we were doing anything as dull as banking. Surely, we were getting food. All other drive-thru experiences had ended with fries. This shouldn’t be an exception.
As cute as this story is, it also demonstrates an important communication technique. As a four-year-old, I thought all drive-thrus ended with fries. Since I did not properly understand what my parents were doing, I misunderstood the situation. Although it might not seem that way, this was a breakdown in communication. This is where drive-thru communication is helpful.
Generally, when you go through the drive-thru – or even order at a restaurant - the other person will repeat your order to you. This ensures that what you ordered and what the person heard are the same. This has saved many a meal from being incorrect. This is drive-thru communication.
Drive-thru communication means that instead of listening to what you think is being said or preparing to respond to what is said, you fully listen to what the person is saying.
The importance of this style of communication was made clear to me in a somewhat awkward way. My senior year of high school, my friend asked me to the homecoming dance. This was a very exciting event because I had not been to any high school dances. He asked me in a somewhat casual way, which I found humorous. He and I and some members of my family were talking together after the fact. I was telling the story of how he asked me. As I was speaking, he interrupted me to correct the inaccurate way I described the situation. I was embarrassed. The way I told the story made him look kind of foolish which was not accurate. I realized in that moment that I need to pay closer attention to what people really say instead of my interpretation of what they said.
I continue to practice this technique today. I now do a better job of listening to what people are really saying. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that all my conversations are one-sided. I have found that really listening to what the other person is saying actually improves the conversation. We stay on topic better, and the other person feels as though their perspective is valued more.
Here's An Example...
Sinikka uses drive thru communication all the time! She uses it frequently in business development conversations with clients. The client typically spends the first few minutes explaining what their problem is. Before Sinikka jumps in with any of her suggestions for how to solve it, she first says “Let me tell you what I think I just heard you say” and she repeats their story back to them. Sometimes people are caught off guard by it, but she has been on enough conference calls to know how important it is to clarify what she heard. If this doesn’t happen, we could end up delivering content that isn’t useful or helpful and in the end they will be left with the same problem they started with. Drive-thru communication means we are as helpful as possible for our clients.
You can practice drive-thru communication by pretending you are at an actual drive-thru. The person you are talking to says something. Then you say it back to them. They either nod yes or correct you. Now the two of you are on the same page.
This is useful for conflict as well as everyday communication. It prevents someone’s message from being misinterpreted, garbled, or misunderstood. I have found that drive-thru communication has brought clarity to my conversations. I hope that you use this method in your next conversation.
*Disclaimer: This concept was introduced to me in a book that I no longer own and don’t remember the title. I spent almost twenty minutes trying to find it with no luck. It appears that the phrase is not copyrighted *