For week eighteen in our fifty week calligraphy challenge we were asked to use languages, to write in our native tongue and something else. I have done work in multiple languages – German, French, Spanish, Hawaiian, even Japanese, so this challenge was a good reminder for me. Instead of repeating myself, I decided to go a different direction. I call myself a half-breed – I was raised in the North by two Southerners. Which meant I ate grits and cheered for Da’ Bears! It also meant I had to navigate communicating with family that spoke different ‘languages’. SO I used that experience for this piece. The phrase I was “translating” was something to do with it doesn’t matter to me. And when hearing that from different tongues it can feel like Greek or Latin, hence their addition to my montage. It was fun seeing and writing the different ways people of all generations tell us that they don’t care.
All this reminded me that we may think we are good communicators, when in reality we are better served to be good translators. Taking what someone said and making sure we understand their meaning, THAT is when real communication begins. Just because they said it or we said it doesn’t not mean everyone understands, and without a shared understanding why are we even wasting our energy by communicating?
There is the written word, the spoken word, the words people said versus the words people understood. There are the slang words, the catch phrases, the generational reinventing of a word – whatever! – and then there is plain old everyday words that change meaning depending upon how they are expressed. No wonder there are communication gaps in our relationships. Who can keep up with all that? The one trick I use to make sure I understand is to do just that, make sure I understand! I say something like, “Let me tell you what I heard to make sure I understood you correctly”. And it is amazing how people react when they know YOU KNOW what they meant!
When it all boils down to who said or meant what, what people people really want is to be understood. They are telling you something for a reason. When you make that effort, work to be sure you clearly know what they were trying to say, everything gets better. People appreciate your effort in making sure, in listening closely enough to comprehend, AND it makes them feel known. It takes time and effort and yet saves SOOOO much confusion, drama and do-overs that the investment in being sure YOU KNOW has the power to bind people together into a cohesive, well oiled machine.
So take the time, admit you are not sure and ask people to c-l-e-a-r-l-y confirm that you get what they meant. Investing in communication, a common understanding and people can only help everyone involved.