Language barriers are not only between different native-language-speakers, many times, language barriers are among people speaking the same language. I’ve discovered recently that many times people don’t understand each other and they never mention it until mistakes have been made.

I need to admit that I’ve always disliked talking on the phone, it’s just never been my thing. Lately, I’ve realized that I’m not alone on this one, many people I know say the exact same thing and have the exact same reasons that I do:

  1. ‍It interrupts what I’m doing at the moment, therefore, impairing me to enjoy the NOW.
  2. It lessens who I’m presently with.
  3. Not seeing someone’s expression when they are saying something is like getting half the message.
  4. Sometimes you do get half the message because connection quality isn’t good.
  5. It is very probable for me to miss part of the message because I’m looking at other things and it is easier to get distracted.

If you ask people how do they prefer to get important business/work information, most of them will mention some kind of formally written media; such as email, traditional mail, printed letter, contract, company board announcement, graphic poster, etc.

The phone is not the only communication media that could get you or someone in your team a wrong message. Consider these other limiting communication media:

Informal meetings

Usually, people say things in meetings and the ASSUME everyone was listening, paying attention and that their message got through just the way he intended to. Let me tell you, this is ALMOST NEVER the case. Many things happen in this meetings that can distract someone, draw attention away or even get you saying things the wrong way. NEVER RELY ON THEM.

Skype or other video conference call medias

Same thing here, but worst. Add to it lack of personal connection, and the technology disruptions, as well as more distractions for everyone, it’s easier to have other unrelated factors distracting you from what’s being said, not to mention your kid yelling in the next room.

Informal SMS

Usually, here people use very local expressions as well as abbreviations and slang words, which could deliver a very wrong message, and when there is a text conversation going on, especially in a chat where more than two participate, some messages get lost within the rainstorm of messages going on at once. And just for the fact that it’s an informal media, people will usually not take it seriously, don’t give an informal impression when it’s an important message.

Of course, sometimes informal SMS could be right, especially when you want to make it more personal. You wouldn’t normally send a formal email to a friend when asking for a favor, you text her personally. Just make sure you’re literally speaking the same language, i.e. don’t use words or expressions that you’ve never used before with her, or never heard her use before.

Some of the main problems that create an inefficient communication media or misunderstandings that I can think of are:

So, how to make sure EVERYONE in the company understands what you’re trying to say?

Creating a communication material that gets through everyone is not easy, especially if it’s a message that should get to more than one person.

This is my advice to you:

IF IT IS FOR 1-5 PEOPLE

If it’s a lot of information, try setting a formal meeting and back up what you say with a powerpoint presentation and hand out printed material for them to follow the presentation.

Another option is to write an email that’s VERY easy to read and scan, meaning, use BLOCKED TEXTS, underline text, italic text, bold text, bullet points, etc. Make sure you don’t lose their attention and that they read every single line of it.

IF IT IS FOR A media SIZED GROUP (LESS THAN 50)

Use printed material that is attractive and easy to read (like a brochure or nicely printed cards), strengthen it with a presentation with no distractions, it’s not a party, it’s a meeting.

Send an email that is VERY easy to read and scan, meaning, use BLOCKED TEXTS, underline text, italic text, bold text, bullet points, etc. Make sure you don’t lose their attention and that they read every single line of it.

IF IT’S FOR A BIG GROUP (50+ PEOPLE)

Try many media for the same message, some people are more visual, others auditive, make sure everyone is exposed to the message in more than one way. Try making posters, videos, publishing in social media, just make sure everything is stated clearly, chose the words and images carefully so they express exactly what you want.

Conclusion:

If you want something to be really understood, don’t asume that because you mentioned it in some meeting or when you had coffee with someone they got the message, even if you make a call exclusively to talk about it, follow it up with an email and state clearly what you talked about and what you need from them, leave no room for questions or misunderstandings, the easier the language you use, the better they will get the message, don’t try to sound superior or more professional by using big or too technical words or expression, do it as simple and clear as possible so NO ONE GETS LOST IN TRANSLATION.

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