Deborah Russell Coaching

What makes you think we understand you?

In a very open and broad discussion between Human Resources and other Team Leaders, we chewed over the difficulties that were being experienced between some departments, that were clearly due to cultural and language barriers. A complete mismatch of comprehensions amongst a number of cultures in different teams was just causing havoc. 

How can you get around this? Is it really an issue that can be solved? It’s easy to add blame to someone else and point at the fact that they are Austrian or German or Italian and suggest that their way of dealing with an issue might be different from a French National for example. It’s also easy to blame the confusion and misinterpretations onto the language that’s being spoken, particularly if it is not your first or second language. But blame creates toxicity and bad feeling and is transmitted both passively and abusively. And now that many of us are talking on zoom, we have even more chance of misunderstandings as the quiet ones stay quiet.  We live in such a multi-cultural society; it is inevitable that confusion and misjudgments do happen.

Here are some simple tips to reduce poor communication amongst teams and their members:

  • Understand that functioning in multiple languages can be exhausting for those using them, so give each other some slack.
  • Get your message across by writing in shorter sentences which makes the text easier to understand and use simpler vocabulary, no one is impressed by words they cannot understand.
  • Keep your slides simple and to the point, “less really IS more”!
  • Remember to use punctuation in your writing, it’s easy to get lost in translation of a language if the punctuation is missing.
  • Use someone’s name, even mid-sentence, it makes it much friendlier and impersonal.
  • Don’t assume everybody is familiar with your jargon and abbreviations.
  • If you are receiving information verbally, repeat what you have understood, “so what you are saying is…”
  • Don’t commit ‘assumicide’ by assuming that everybody understands YOU!  Pick up the phone and ask if there is anything not clear and discuss further if necessary.
  • Avoid inbox overload; who actually needs a copy of what you are sending?
  • Consider who really needs to be at any meeting? And who would benefit from a private one to one or satelite meeting?
  • Smile when you are speaking to somebody, it makes connection so very much easier.
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