Ever have a relationship that was seriously unbalanced, in that it was all about the other person? For instance, I used to know a guy who was first a client, and then we became friends. He was smart, talented, fun to be with--but completely narcissistic.

We'd meet for lunch or dinner, and he'd talk about his career. His wife. His kids. His music collection, a book he'd read. A movie he'd seen. And on and on and on until my head would spin. (And not just because I kept ordering drinks; I was dizzy from the effort of trying to get a word in edgewise.)

I was reminded of this former friend recently when I was asked to review six months worth of a company's employee communication, in order to prepare for a planning session. Since I looked at it all in one sitting, it was easy for me to see how one-sided the stuff was.

Created from the point of view of senior leaders, it barely acknowledged that employees existed, much less honored their perspective. Nowhere could I glimpse even the notion that this communication was focused on the needs of the employee "customer." It was all about the "me, me, me" of the corporation.

This made me feel tired and a little sad, the same way I used to feel after seeing my "friend." He seemed to like being with me, but he didn't seem actually interested in me. After a while, I began to feel the whole reason he spent time with me was because I was a good audience. I was like Narcissus' pool--the mirror he gazed in to admire his own reflection.

This realization was depressing, and after a while, I drifted away from my friend.

Here's the hard question for you: If your communication is one-sided (all about you), can it possibly be meeting the needs of your audience?

Not likely, of course. Periodically, you need to take a hard look at your messages to make sure communication:

  • Answers your audience's key questions: "How does this affect me?" "What's in it for me?"
  • Is easy for your audience to access and understand.
  • Speaks to your audience in a friendly, approachable tone.

By doing so, you can make sure communication is not about you, fascinating as you may be.