Too often language is the invisible elephant that stands squarely between you and the person you are trying influence or help. Not all languages have dictionaries or documentation. They evolve over common cultures or perspectives and grow to become significant barriers that limit understanding. Using them without translation can make others feel foolish, disrespected or disregarded… little chance of influencing or helping them after that!
The solution is not necessarily using a common language; confirm understanding in each communication. If you identify when you are not understood and clearly translate your meaning, everyone wins – and learns! Here are three barriers commonly witnessed on a daily basis.
It’s not all in your mind, though sometimes that’s where it starts. We each have preferred methods of gathering information and making decisions. When we fail to engage those who use a different thought-process, we are less likely to collaborate effectively. If you spend all your airtime convincing others of the economic properties, the person willing to fund your venture may lose interest! Statistics show most of us want one of these answers first: is good for the people involved?… is it dependable, economical, traditional?… will it work? … what about its long-range effects? TIP: When sharing ideas with a large group, someone in your audience probably has one of these as their first priority. So start by giving the answers: the future possibilities, the logical pros and cons, the concrete details of current realities, and the impact to the values of the people involved. Having heard their own language, they are now ready to build on that foundation.
We change jobs more and more often as our world speeds forward. We are dropped into new cultures that have continued to offer similar products and services while transitioning through mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, and entrepreneurial chaos. Both on-boarding extremes of formal orientation and on-the-job training miss the opportunity to build a common language with new employees by sharing the company history – including painful lessons learned and collaborative survival experiences. Those times are referenced regularly by those who lived through them, but the references are made through half-phrases and side glances. New employees are left out of those rich conversations that continue to build confidence, connect empathies and explain stilted behaviors. TIP: Welcome new people into the time warp quickly so they can more effectively embrace and connect to your culture.
We cause damage with the divisions we build as generational diversity fills our workplaces. Using derogatory tones when referring to someone as a millennial does nothing but divide us. When will we learn? We grew up in different worlds even if we were in the same space; we have so much to learn from one another if we will just learn to communicate. TIP: Find a translator! Collect trusted experts from a variety of generations and create your own living dictionary: resources who will candidly define what those from their generation may mean when you have missed the point.
As you get comfortable using acronyms, medical and technology terminologies, etc., never become deaf to those around you who may have important contributions to offer – if they just understood your meaning! And if you don’t understand theirs, learn to ask – respectfully. Need help with communication? We help people with that every day!
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