Communication is like Europe


At a local event I was speaking with a person who was having troubles with finding a common ground for communication with their business counterpart. She explained to me that while the business would tell them in their own words what they want but her team could never seem to deliver on what was asked.


She went on to explain that her team went to what they believed to be great lengths to improve on the delivery of service and be a better partner but they seemed to continually miss the mark.


I explained to her that degrees of communication are like Europe. She had a bewildered look on her face, so I thought in the spirit of communication I had better explain.


Some years ago I took a trip to the continent and did a fair bit of backpacking. Before I left I planned which countries I would visit and since this was before the advent of smart phones and apps I didn’t want to carry translation dictionaries for every language so I put down the top phrases for some and none for others.


Greece was one of the farthest gaps I experienced, while at most places people spoke English, the places in off the beaten path places was in Cyrillic. Which left me totally lost or at the mercy of others. In other words there were significant communication challenges.


In France I found that while my French was lacking I had a better handle on communication since I had some background on the language. Aside from understanding many of the words in the printed form, I was also able to pick out enough keywords from the quickest speaking Frenchman to put things together.


In England one would assume that I would have no challenges whatsoever since English was my principal language. If you have ever conversed with an Englishman you would know that not all English is the same. This might be the best indication of where business and providers are seeing this level of communication breakdown.


Here are some tips to improve on your communication skills


Ask questions
There are no stupid questions, but if you don’t get the information you want that there could have been smarter questions you could have asked. Leverage the 5 W’s and get an answer that has a comprehensive explanation rather than a one or two word answer. Take the information that you are given and ask the person in your words just to ensure that you have hit the mark. This will improve you comprehension of the information that you are given.


Face to Face
Like many of the places I visited I was in a way better position to understand what was going on because I was speaking directly. I found that if I had to speak with someone on the phone the lack of engagement and ability to see their body language would generally end up with me booking a night in the worst hostel in town.


Listen don’t talk


Some people feel the need to finish off another person’s sentence as a way for them to understand (or believe to understand) what is being explained to them. In many cases the most important detail of what they are explaining will come to the end and by speaking for them we over-write the most important details on our own assumption.


In the end you need to wrap all of this together to get the big picture. Some information has been shared with you. You gathered all the details from the business and then validated the information with the business in your words to ensure that you understood what they said and then had them confirm that you understand. The trick is to continue the dialog regularly to ensure that you continually stay on target for the communication process