My wife and I typically wait until after we discover a colossal communication fissure for a review of the what-we-shoulda-dones.  However, we recently blundered into creating something that just might save our sanity: preventative communication.

On her list for me to build in my woodworking shop is bedroom furniture.  She finds a picture in a catalog, makes alterations with a Sharpie, and then I set about creating wood shavings. My plans are in a dangerous place- my head- so no detailed drawings exist beyond the catalog picture.

I constructed the oak headboard and footboard solid enough for a John Deere tractor.  She came to my shop to compliment my progress and to bring warm cookies and milk. I will do a lot for warm cookies and milk.

I sketched out for her what the side drawers under the bed were going to look like: three sets on each side, two deep, for a total of twelve drawers for both sides. She had envisioned only two drawers per side for a total of four. As usual, I was making life three times more difficult than it should. Here’s our new strategy:

  1. Review before committing – Carpenters say, “Measure twice, cut once.” We had visited previously about the drawers, but we were never on the same page.
  2. Ask rather than assume– The power of a question can not be underestimated. By asking one more time, “Is this what you had in mind?” saved the project.
  3. Expect you are not communicating clearly – A favorite story illustrates this: The Mother noticed her children were playing with something and, upon discovering it was a litter of baby skunks, shrieked in horror, “Run!”  Her kids scattered like a covey of quail, each one holding a baby skunk.
My Dad used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  We always kiss and make up, but are learning not to invent unnecessary situations that require reconciliation.

What preventative communication tricks have you used to avoid catastrophe?