Speak to Me in a Language I Can Understand

My poor dad, he was the most patient man – ever. He had to be, I was his daughter. Dad was the head diesel mechanic for a trucking company. It was very common for him to give directions to the drivers on how to get to the shop or any other location. He was great at giving directions: simple, easy to follow, direct. And his daughter was directionally-illiterate, let me correct that, IS directionally-illiterate.

He gave directions to the drivers like this: “Go North a quarter mile then turn East for a mile and a half…” And that does not work for me. Here is how he would have to give me directions, “Go like you are going to Terri’s and when you get to the McDonald’s by Marsh turn right…” It works for me. I still have to get directions this way!

My point is my dad figured out that he had to speak in a language that I understood or he would have to come out and try to find me an a couple of hours later still wandering around trying to figure out if East would have been left or right and exactly how much is a quarter mile anyway…

It is very important to know your audience if you want to get your point across. You probably do not talk to your six year old the same way you do your boss, or your significant other the same way you do a technician. There are three important factors to consider: your tone and speech pattern; the words you choose; and the consistency of your meaning.

“Be sweet” as my mom would say. Speaking in a non-threatening way will always give your message more opportunity to be heard by the other party. I know when I teach a class and a participant is frustrated I have to be very mindful that it is the frustration that is making their message come out in a nasty tone. It takes more effort to listen because the natural reaction is to tone them out.

Certain words have different meanings for people. I hate the word “cute”, but that is a personal thing because I am all of 5’ and being a very petite woman that word just bugs me. Other words can cause very strong reactions so be careful in the words you choose. Definitive words should rarely be used: hate, never, always – if we really look at situations we would most likely find that these words are misused and really do not apply.

What is your message? Make sure that it is consistent throughout your communication. If you do not want to set up that business meeting do not start the conversation with: “Thank you for the invitation, I just do not think this is a good fit and a meeting would not be in either of our best interests.” and end it with, “Maybe at another time we could schedule something.” Either you want to meet or you don’t but please be clear.

I’ve got a meeting to run to, it is too bad Google doesn’t know how to give directions like me Dad…

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Polish, Inc.

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