Speaking the Other Language

We all have our own unique styles of communication. Whether it’s derived from nature or nurture, one’s personality style, or one’s language of appreciation, how we communicate and prefer to be communicated to are different. And sometimes we perceive what someone else is trying to say through the lens of our own preferred style, which can lead to stress, anxiety, and miscommunication.

What you thought you said isn’t always what the other person heard.

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

I witnessed this in France, watching two different Americans approach a cashier in a small shop.

The first conversation went like this:
American: (stressed and aggressive) I wanna buy this candy bar.
Cashier: (rattled, reacting with fast blinking) Je n’parle pas Anglais, lentement.
American: What?! I don’t talk French. Just – I wanna buy this. How much money do you need?
Cashier: (quietly) je quoi… un euro vingt
American: What? Don’t you speak English? Here—take what you need. (Throws a pile of change on the counter.)
The cashier blinked at the British currency the tourist offered, as the tourist had just come from Britain. The cashier was confused, and the tourist was confused.

Both started stressed, became more stressed, and left discontented.

Now let’s look at the second conversation:
American: (in an exaggerated, terrible, clumsy yet earnest accent) Bonjour. Jey voo-dray cette chocolate see voo play.
Cashier: Bonjour. That please is one euro twenty please.
American: Vwa la doo euro.
Cashier: Thank you, here is extra eighty cent.
American: Merci bow-coo, au revoir.

Both parties left the encounter relieved and pleased.

Sometimes when I do DiSC training, people feel a little overly-simplified or labeled. So, instead of talking about personality styles, I talk about language. Things always go better if we do a clumsy job of talking in the other person’s language (like in example two), instead of a totally smooth and aggressive form of talking in our own language (like in example one.)

Switching your own gears and natural communication style in order to speak the other person’s communication language shows your willingness to do what it takes for them to understand what you’re communicating, even if it is out of your comfort zone and sounds a bit clumsy and unrefined. They’re more likely to appreciate the effort, and you’re more likely to avoid any miscommunication.

Also when we are tired or stressed or angry, we are not our best. Step back, take some deep breaths, reevaluate, and wait until you’re in a better frame of mind.

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