George Bernard Shaw once said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

Ever have a discussion with a client where both of you unknowingly walk away with a different understanding of what you discussed?

Usually you find out later, when another discussion that sounds something like, "...Oh, I thought you meant (fill in the blank)." You may think one thing while the other person is thinking something quite different, yet you are both under the illusion you meant the same thing.

Sometimes it’s a simple miscommunication, such as the time I sent an email late at night asking for a meeting "tomorrow." The following morning I received a confirmation of the meeting, and at the appointed time she did not show up. She had opened the email in the morning and didn’t look at the date, assuming the word "tomorrow" meant the following day. I made a mental note to start using the day or date instead of "tomorrow."

Another example is the use of time zones when dealing with people around the country. We can communicate with people nationally or globally and forget that their 2 p.m. is different than our 2 p.m.
Imagine thinking that you clearly understand a message and you forge ahead with confidence, only to find out later that the time, alternate scheduling, money and effort you put into it was wasted, or worse yet, created a set-back. It’s happened to all of us.
One very simple and effective way to combat miscommunication is to repeat what you think you heard in your own words. Summarizing the key points of your communications goes a long way to creating effective communication and placing everyone involved on the same page.

There are many other ways to beef up your communication to ensure that it is correctly understood. Putting it in writing is very effective, as long as it is clear. Signage, newsletters and bulletin board posts all reinforce your message and provide additional confirmation with accuracy.

The best and perhaps the most effective method to ensure accurate communications is to have systems in place everywhere in your business. Written systems for scheduling, payments, hiring, referrals, scripting, lead generation, closing contracts, even procedures for opening and closing your studio each day save time, money and misunderstanding.
When people assume or fill in the blanks themselves, their assumptions are only as good as the information they have. Sometimes you only get one shot. Make it an effective one with excellent communication.

Greg Justice, MA, CPT, is the founder of AYC Health & Fitness ( and the Corporate Boot Camp System ( He has been actively involved in the fitness industry for more than a quarter of a century as a club manager, owner, personal trainer and corporate wellness supervisor.