Carl Mays: We may be from ‘different planets,’ but can communicate

Dec. 01, 2012 @ 12:52 AM

Maybe you have said it or have heard someone else say, “Sometimes you just can’t get through to people.” What this means, of course, is that there is a failure to communicate because the parties involved seem to be coming from different frames of reference, backgrounds or completely different understandings – or maybe even seemingly different planets.

In a recent column I told how the Associated Press reported in 1985 that legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra woke up in his New Jersey home on Thanksgiving morning to find truckers and members of the Red River Valley Potato Growers Association unloading 23 tons of North Dakota-grown potatoes in his front yard. Supposedly, the situation was a product of one of Yogi’s off-the-cuff remarks. In response to the column, a reader sent me another, more current story originating in North Dakota, which, if true, certainly appears to spotlight someone from another planet. What the reader sent not only included story details, but also a YouTube Internet link supporting it.

Supposedly, a Fargo woman named Donna had been in three separate automobile accidents involving deer over the past few years and was aware of other vehicle-deer accidents. She said she had contacted some newspapers and television stations to complain and to offer a solution, but couldn’t get anyone to take her seriously. And then Donna finally got an opportunity to vent her frustration and proposed solution when she phoned a Fargo radio station call-in show.

She said something to the effect of, “Why are we encouraging deer to cross the highway in high-traffic areas? We even have signs up encouraging deer to cross on the Interstate, of all places.” Donna then voiced her solution, “Move the ‘Deer Crossing’ signs to low-traffic areas where it is safer for the deer to cross.”

From the account sent to me, along with the YouTube link, the radio host was taken back, paused, and then politely explained to Donna, “You know, ma’am, deer crossing signs aren’t telling deer that it’s safe to cross at those locations. The signs are posted to alert drivers there is a high deer population in those areas.” Donna still didn’t get it and was quite demonstrative in saying so.

Is this a hoax or a prank? Could be. But whether it’s a true story or a blown-up farce, it does present a great example that sometimes some people can appear to be from a different planet when it comes to the important process of communicating. And, at times, for some reason, you and I may be the ones seemingly far way.

That’s why I have always liked and appreciated the story of how NFL Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi kicked off his first meeting with players after joining the Green Bay Packers. Even though comprised of some talented players, the Packers had several losing seasons before Lombardi took over the team. Thus, as he stood in front of them that first meeting, he held up a football and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Coach Lombardi, in dealing with players from different backgrounds, understandings, experiences, intelligence, knowledge, wisdom and – yes, possibly even different planets – was saying, “Let’s get down to the basic, nitty-gritty fundamentals of what this is all about, work together to communicate with one another and perform well enough to become champions at what we do.”

Evidence that Coach Lombardi was able to get through to his Packers, that they bought into things and that they did respond well is supported by the fact that since 1971, each NFL Super Bowl Champion has been awarded a Vince Lombardi Trophy exclusively handcrafted by Tiffany & Company.

© 2012 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author, whose mentoring site is based on his “A Strategy For Winning” book and program. Contact or view