Overcome the Language Barriers

2018-06-28 07.09.11Too 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.

Personality Priority

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.

Temporal Blindness

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.

Generation Gap

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!

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017

Customers Are People Too


After hyper exposure to consumer impacts, our customers are often viewed less as people and more as avatars or data points.  As customers ourselves, we have each felt, occasionally, that the employee ‘helping’ us had repeated the same interactions until their scripting and movements became rote, and we were invisible to them.  As managers, we look at graphs representing customer purchases and practices to the point that we no longer connect stats to human decisions.  These are natural responses, but they can kill your business results if you and your team do not resist assimilation into this danger zone.

You must continue to interact with this critical segment of your business as the individuals they are.  Here are some things we forget about people and some ideas for increasing competitive advantage by helping these people feel their significance.

Communication Happens… or not

Fight or flight responses are normal in conversations when people are not respected.  And, often, while the person does not physically move, we feel them leave by raising what seems to be a mental wall.  Sharpening awareness of this wall helps us realize when customers feel disrespected and this attentiveness gives us opportunity to lower that wall and welcome them back to the dialog.

The instinct to respond to this sensitivity and use smart recovery tactics can be learned.  Here are a few common ways to lower that wall and confirm you value the customer’s communication; it’s even smarter to use these habitually to reduce the frequency of that wall going up at all!

  • Always ensure they feel decisions are in their control
  • Avoid assumptions of their expertise by sharing rationale and confirming their interest or understanding
  • Ask permission to share or show
  • Ask for the customer’s help or perspective
  • Demonstrate listening: validate emotion they show and summarize facts they share
  • Sincerely praise their past positive decisions and empathize with questionable ones

Change Happens

Businesses adjust services and products… constantly!  People feel vulnerable when suddenly informed of changes or coerced into making decisions on options they didn’t plan for or don’t understand.  Expect customer resistance when employees respond to that vulnerability with pressure-scripting.

Your customer-savvy employees will deliver these disappointments with ways that help meet the individual’s needs and process through their resistance:

  • Validation of the customer’s understandable reaction to the unexpected reality
  • Description of the customer’s positive future might look like with this change
  • Explanation of the disadvantages for continuing with the former option
  • Suggested customer-friendly plans to get to their new, positive future

Conflict Happens

Conflict between customers and your employees can seem as minor as differing perspectives, but responses to those differences can inspire or injure spending decisions.  Using the same strategy to navigate every disagreement can be tragic.  Employees must quickly decide the direction that will best meet the needs of both their specific customer and the business.  When there is no option that will create the perfect union, we all need the judgment to know when to risk, to sacrifice or to reconcile.

Thomas Kilmann’s styles may help your employees identify what appropriate options look like when they face conflict in customer interactions: avoid, accommodate, compromise, collaborate, compete.

Making customers feel valued has always fueled competitive advantage.  Supporting employees who use the tips listed above often requires coordination from marketing, operations, training and sales strategists, so don’t leave it to your customer-facing employees to do this on their own.  Check us out…. Aligning the necessary and realistic support from these internal roles that have competing agendas is what we do best!!

Find more of what you need by opening our BOX of BLOGS from 2017