Many of us see a communication problem and have no idea how to deal with it.
So often we turn around and walk the other way. This is often just because that’s the way we’re built as humans. We see something we don’t like; we don’t know how to fix it and so it’s just easier to pretend it doesn’t exist. I know I’ve done this before, have you?
Problems can sometimes feel too difficult to face head on and they can be demanding of our time – even scary if we don’t know what the outcome will be. This is particularly true when we don’t understand what that person is saying. It could be technical jargon, something you don’t understand or a foreign language. Perhaps we’re not putting enough effort into our own communication or there’s a barrier that’s stopping the communication getting through – a lack of knowledge or perhaps a lack of care, the wrong attitude. Generally, whichever it is, it’s making communicating with others more arduous and testing than it really needs to be. In fact sometimes we end up being unnecessarily rude or aggressive with people because we don’t understand them. That’s not okay, especially when we can do something to improve it.
There are times that I’ve had problems communicating with others and in all fairness I probably could have dealt with them better. I might have been infuriated for having to repeat myself, confused because I can’t understand someone or annoyed when they don’t understand me. I’ve may have even just left the problem with someone else instead of dealing with it myself because it was easier. But really, this behaviour has never helped me in any difficult situations and I’ve never felt better for doing it (it’s never made it less complicated anyway)!
So what have I learnt that makes it so easy to talk about this now? Not long ago, I was visiting the Philippines; I was on the small island of Busuanga, in a town called Coron. It is one of my favourite islands I’ve visited in Asia and has so much beauty it’s very easy to just sit, relax and enjoy the sunshine. On a day trip to a smaller, remote island just off the coast, I was joined by a fun, warm and engaging Chinese family. Having just visited China the month before I thought I might be suave and remember a couple of basic sentences, however apart from hello and (maybe) thank you it was obvious I did not know my stuff!
With the conversation running dry before we’d even left, I remembered a vital piece of communication that the group I’d travelled through China with had come across and learnt on various train journeys. It was a phrase used by the stewards, as they came rushing down the aisles selling food and drink on a trolley shouting, “Lila! Lila!” (I’m coming! I’m coming!) Being a group made up of mainly English or European travellers, we found the translation highly amusing. The stewards would come by once every hour or so and our excitement at their arrival every time was brilliant, reciprocating their yells with the same, “Lila! Lila!” to which the local Chinese travellers in our carriage would laugh at too. We would gather around the trolley every time, just to check out the unusual mix of Chinese foods and buy traditional noodles or savoury crackers for dinner.
“Lila! Lila!” I shouted, mimicking pushing a trolley down the train aisles. The family burst out laughing and knew exactly what I meant as I then told them the meaning in English too. They must have loved that this of all things was one of my lasting memories of their Chinese vocabulary. We went through the rest of the day randomly stating the brief words we each knew of one another’s language, educating each other and enjoying the new company. By the end of the day, we were taking selfies and the dad even posed with some starfish for me! It wasn’t much, but in all honesty even now I am amazed that from one small (and very silly) little word, we ended up sharing a day of beautiful experiences together as friends. It goes to show that we don’t need to know every word in the dictionary to begin a conversation, to build a friendship or make the tiniest of impressions on someone. It can take nothing to build a connection with someone else, because at the end of the day just like a photograph, a smile can say more than a thousand words.
Over time, I’ve realised that it’s not about the words you say when building connections. Words can describe, they can teach and communicate, but gesture, emotion and movement can do so much more. I no longer feel restricted in my communication when I’m at a loss for the right words. If anything I’ve become less concerned about what the words are and more aware that there are so many other ways of communicating and building rapport with people.
Next week, part 2 of Communication Without Barriers will be focusing on the questions I ask myself every time I meet someone new. Whether we speak the same language or not, I’ve found a way that can keep me on track to getting the most out of my communication with others and I’ll be sharing this with you.
If you missed it, check out the bank holiday weekend blog where we looked at The Power in being Still which focuses on relaxation and meditation.