I am a fan of Seth Godin’s work. He is the author of many best-selling books on marketing. His approach is honest, authentic and free of hype.

Here is an excerpt from his recent blog. I think these simple everyday examples tell a very big story of how real and effective communication can work.


If you are asked a question in a job interview, on stage or even on a date, there’s probably a reason, and the reason might not be because the person asking wants to know your answer.

“How was your day at school,” is not a question asked to determine how a day at school was. It’s a (lousy) attempt at starting a conversation about feelings.

It requires empathy to answer a question that isn’t obviously about the answer.

The empathy to see that the person asking you has something else in mind.

Back when I was hiring dozens of people at Yoyodyne, I asked one of the hackneyed programmer interview questions (back then, it wasn’t nearly as well known.) “How many gas stations are there in the US?”

It should have been obvious that I didn’t actually want to know how many gas stations there were. That was easy to look up, and why would I ask someone I didn’t know a question like that?

Over time, I had to get more and more clear in my messaging. “Because I want to see how you figure out amorphous problems, help me understand how you would answer a question like…” Even then, it was a very powerful tell. Two people said, “I don’t have a car,” and left the interview. (That’s true, not hyperbole).

Other than name and phone number, when someone asks you a question, it’s worth considering why. Intentionally answering the real question is a great place to start.

Thank you to Seth Godin – JUNE 8, 2019. Your work is awesome.


In many cases, a question is just a way of trying to start a conversation – a way to open the door, an invitation to connect on the same wavelength.

Sometimes, a simple comment about the weather serves the same purpose.  A person may say “the weather seems to be getting worse”, for example. It seems like this person wants to give you some facts about the weather. And, you may feel like you have to agree or disagree.

But, maybe this person doesn’t really care about the facts. They might just be looking for a little agreement (about anything), so you can both relax and feel a little connection. You can still achieve this, even if you don’t agree with this person’s statement.

For example, you might say, “I sure hope things will improve”. In this way, you have found a way to agree on something. A win win for both people. You both feel good and might even continue talking.

In my work, it is common for patients to say something like, “this pain is horrible and I will never get better”. As a clinican, you may not like to hear such defeat. You may want to counter such negativity.

But, often, the person is not intending to state a fact, but is seeking a little hope for their scary and uncertain future. It is this feeling that you want to respond to, by saying “I sure hope that things will get better and we will do everything we can to make that happen”.

When you are trying to help people with long-term pain and loss, this kind of indirect communication can really provide a lot of much needed support.

And, as Seth Godin points out, it can also go a long way in everyday life.


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