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"Message not received"

The first time I went for a float in a sensory deprivation chamber, I was shivering. The float chamber contains saline water that's heated to match your body temperature. It offers a space free from distraction and stimuli, allowing your body and mind time to rejuvenate from the stressors of daily living.

While I was cold, I enjoyed it enough to want to give it a second try. So when I was planning my next float, I decided I was going to take a nice warm shower before I got in so I would be warm.

As the woman showed me the facilities she said “now make sure you don’t take a hot shower because the water is body temperature and if you take a hot shower you’ll be cold.”

I heeded her advice and went into my floating chamber. As I laid there buoyed by the Empson saltwater I thought to myself angrily, “they didn’t tell me to take a cold shower the first time I came in.”

I envisioned myself giving this feedback after my float. My jaw clenched and I noticed my mode shifting to judgmental and angry as I imagine the words spewing from my mouth.

Aware of my strong reaction I paused and asked, what is another way I could look at the situation? I had no evidence that I wasn’t told this the last time I came in for a float. I just didn’t recall it. So instead I decided to re-frame my perception as “message not received.”

I often hear professionals complain about not being told important information for doing their job. Not feeling adequately informed is frustrating and demoralizing. It leads to mistakes, lost productivity, stress and discomfort.

We can all relate to how annoying it is to feel left out when we need to be in the know.

On the flip side, I also hear leaders vent their frustrations when team members aren't ingesting the information they share. I recall one client lamenting, "I provide detailed emails, but no one ever reads them. And they come to me asking questions - the answers are in my emails!"

Whether we are providing or receiving information, it's important to acknowledge that delivery does not always guarantee receipt. Communicating is rarely as straightforward as a FedEx delivery.

Instead of reacting angrily when valuable information is missing, consider offering grace. What if it's a matter of the message not being received?

That simple shift, from judging and blaming others to assuming they are doing their best drastically changes the dynamics of our interactions. We enter follow-up conversations poised to create a positive impact rather than accosting them as our opponents. Saying, "message not received" sets you up for finding an amicable solution moving forward together.

At the end of the day, it's better to actually solve the underlying problem than to feel vindicated for any and all wrong-doing. Communicating effectively is a two-way street. If you have an important point you want to make, you'll want to ensure the other person is able to receive it. Otherwise, you might as well talk to yourself in the mirror.

It turned out I had a wonderfully relaxing float the second time. When I emerged from it the woman who greeted me asked how it was.

“I’m so glad you told me about not taking a hot shower before my float." I shared calmly, "I did not receive that message the first time I came in, and I was so cold in the beginning.”

It turns out she had a similar experience, which is why she makes a point to instruct patrons not to take hot showers before floating. She appreciated hearing my feedback and I was glad to affirm her communication skills. Because of my reframe, we had a pleasant exchange that added a punctuation mark on an overall positive experience!

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