What did you say?

As a head of department or trainer, I imagine that one of he most frustrating things is to have a team that just does not seem to understand you.  I have several examples I could share but the most recent occurred several weeks ago.  I gave specific instructions on the right office attire and accessories for a customer service professional. I prepared a memo with a detailed list of what not to wear, included pictures then walked to everyone and told them to read and sign the memo  once they had completed reading.  At the end of that exercise I placed the memo on the staff notice board.  I had given them a deadline to comply with the “new”standards.  I made it clear that disciplinary action would be taken against anyone who committed breaches after the deadline.

One week later a senior member of staff came to work with the exact opposite of what I wrote in the memo.  I asked if there was confusion from the pictures and description of what I considered proper?  The answer was a resounding “no.”  I asked why do the exact opposite then?  The person began explaining  the sense of the information that I communicated via memo with pictures.   It turns out their interpretation was partly correct, and the other part contrived from the deepest recesses of a science fiction novel!  Why do so many people have a problem communicating effectively with each other?

The first answer has to do with the person sending the communication.  I assumed that everyone understood clearly what I wanted to communicate.  Especially since I placed pictures and a detailed description of what the standards were. The issue of assuming and projecting your own intelligence on another person causes communication breakdown.  The second point has to do with the level of language that I used to communicate my expectations.  Did I use language simple enough for all the learning levels within the team or did I assume again that because they all can read and write, the information would be understood? The other side of the spectrum deals with the receiver of the information.  Did they really “listen” to what was  said in the memo or did they block out the information and replaced it with their own?  As you saw with Dilbert above, he knows what he is communicating but his friend has a complete mental block when he is talking.  The listener was not ready to hear the information.

When you work in the service industry listening and imparting information is a key part of being  successful and may be the difference between losing a sale and winning that coveted sales employee of the month award.  Never take it for granted that the party on the other end is a nuisance and begin blocking the flow of information.  A very big part of this communication continuum is language.  What you say is important but how you say it determines its effectiveness.  Try talking English to a Spanish speaker and see how far you get in putting your message across.  When you cross over into the realm of language it’s not only about words anymore but culture as well.  As a service provider you must understand this absolutely or your effectiveness and value to your organisation will diminish. When you speak a foreign language you must also understand the culture of the person whose language you are speaking.  What would you do if an Englishman saw you in the street and asked you for a “fag?” Would you take offense and punch him in the face or would you smile and politely say ” I’m married?”  A “fag” is a colloquialism for a cigarette in parts of England.

 Training in telephone techniques must also include language usage, mixed with a little culture awareness.  Too  many software programmes leave this vital part out of their expensive training solutions.  Although you may be very capable of speaking the language you lose the substance  in the end.  
I’m off in my lorry because my truck broke down!

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