For the third time this year, Mercury is in retrograde. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, and its orbit is much shorter than Earth's. This means that several times a year, Mercury passes Earth in its longer orbit. From the perspective of Earth's surface, during these times it appears that Mercury is orbiting backwards. It's not--it's just an optical illusion--but astrologists have long assigned meaning to this phenomenon. 

According to astrologists, Mercury impacts communication. They warn to proceed with caution when communicating during retrograde periods. Whether it's personal communication, business negotiations, writing, or anything else, expect the unexpected. Don't be surprised when things aren't as you understood them, or when others misinterpret your meaning. As Mercury also impacts transportation, expect that what can go wrong in travel will go wrong.

Now, perhaps you believe in astrology and perhaps you don't. I know highly intelligent people on both sides of the debate. Ultimately, as a business leader, it doesn't matter where you fall on the spectrum of belief, or if it's real or not. What matters is whether your employees or your clients believe in it, because if they do, there's a good chance it's impacting your business.

So, from now until November 20, you need to account for Mercury's retrograde. If you don't, you won't be prepared for how people may behave and react. Here's how to interact with people more effectively any time Mercury is in retrograde:

1. Talk to Your People 

The first step is to determine whether any of your colleagues or clients lend credence to astrology. Remember that each person has their own opinions on matters like this, so don't make assumptions because of other beliefs you know they have or the beliefs of their friends. You also need to be careful not to express judgment or preference on either side. Instead, listen carefully to what others say and do, and how they react to things that happen in their lives. Can you discern anything from the comments they make? Alternatively, don't be afraid to bring it up on your own, as long as you're able to do so in a neutral manner. 

2. Make Time for Strategic Realignment 

Even if you don't think anyone connected to your company believes in the impact of astrology, it's best to proceed as if someone does. From the beginning, set reasonable expectations for what might be different during this time, and let people know about it. Plus, work some extra open times into your calendar during this period. Reserve these times for evaluating how Mercury might be impacting your communication and travel, and for checking in with people to make sure no one has missed anything important. Remember, you can't be too careful during this time!

3. Don't React--Discuss 

While Mercury is in retrograde, assume that communication and travel will be impacted. When something bad happens in a related area, try not to react with anger. Someone who believes in astrology may feel that what happened is genuinely not their fault, so reacting with frustration or blame will be ineffective, or perhaps even counterproductive. Instead, take it all in stride, and don't panic. Have a discussion with the person responsible--regardless of who is to blame--and calmly determine how to fix the issue.

4. Use It as a Good Excuse 

Regardless of your personal feelings on astrology, the smart business move is to use Mercury's retrograde as an excuse for good business and communication practices. Perhaps there's a colleague you haven't had an opportunity to connect with. Find out his or her feelings on astrology, and see if Mercury has impacted life or work. If they're a believer, see if there's anything you can do to support their efforts to counteract Mercury's influence. Moreover, use it as a reason to be extra careful in your communication and extra thorough in your planning, and encourage others to do the same. With some extra effort, you may find that Mercury's retrograde turns out to be a period of top-quality communication!