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You're Talking, But Do They Get the Message?

Tuesday, 3 Feb 2009 | 8:36 AM ET

I’m on a plane.

It’s the first flight I’ve taken since that plane from NY decided to land, of all places, in the Hudson River.

The flight attendants are reviewing the safety instructions. If we were headed for the Hudson, we’d all be riveted.

But we’re headed for Houston so we could care less. “Seat cushions may be used as flotation devices.” Ok. “Oxygen masks may fall from the ceiling.” Uh-huh. “They may or may not inflate.” Whatever.

Does this ever happen to you at work - you’ve got critical info, but no one is listening?

I remember one flight that was different. I was seated in the exit row, and the flight attendant dropped by to ask whether we exit row passengers knew what we were doing.

Most days, I have trouble exiting the house, let alone a distressed plane, but like everyone else, I nodded yes.

The flight attendant was unimpressed. “Look,” she said, “I have two young kids, and I want to make sure – what are you going to do with the exit doors?”

No one seemed to know.

“Throw them into the Atlantic Ocean,” she said.

“I knew that,” said my seatmate. The flight attendant shot him a look that said, “Buddy, one more word, and I may throw you into the Atlantic Ocean.”

We got the point.

Tip #1: Anyone can stand up and talk. But it doesn’t matter what you say, it matters what they hear. The only way to know what they hear is to check.

Tip #2: Don’t even think about throwing the airplane doors into the Atlantic, unless you happen to be in the neighborhood. Otherwise, it’s too far a throw.

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Consultant, author, speaker, and founder of express potential® (www.expresspotential.com), Paul Hellman has worked with CEOs, executives, and managers at leading companies for over 25 years to improve performance and productivity at work. His latest book is “Naked at Work: How to Stay Sane When Your Job Drives You Crazy,” and his columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and other leading papers.

Comments? Send them to executivecareers@cnbc.com

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