When I moved to Dublin twenty years ago I had a pretty good understanding of the English language. Or so I thought. I hadn’t a clue about the different meanings between American English and British English and this has caused quite a few misunderstandings over the years...
But a shared language does not actually mean everyone has the same understanding of all words. We are all different people, and there are different nuances as to how we think. We might have a different understanding of a common word or our understanding of the connotations of words might differ.
Often people’s understandings of words are close enough that, for many purposes the differences are fine and nothing to worry about.
However, sometimes the differences are relevant and this causes misunderstandings. And many of these misunderstandings go unnoticed because people think they agree, and never discuss further to find out if they really do agree, or not.
See? Communication is challenging.
Never assume communication is automatic.
Some people communicate brilliantly over the phone but mess it all up when writing an e-mail. It could be the smallest comma that makes all the difference, like in these two examples below:
We order merchandise and sell the products.
We order, merchandise and sell the products.
A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman, without her, man is nothing.
Others are the other way around, the written words come easier than making conversation.
When I say something, you have to guess what I mean. Take the time to listen and ask the following questions:
What am I saying?
What do you think that I am saying?
What can you hear?
What do you think you hear?
What is actually being said?
Do whatever you can to make the concepts in your head translate into something the other person can understand. Write it out, draw sketches, talk through it or give examples.
Managing expectations is a big part of my job as a graphic designer and that is what effective communication does.
But the ability to communicate is crucial for everyone, in all parts of life, not just your working life. If you just remember that the best way to avoid any misunderstandings is to never assume, well then you are communicating well.
Thanks for reading.