Tag Archive for: communication

Lost in Translation

Anyone who speaks two languages knows that some phrases in one language communicate certain ideas better than in another.
For instance the word “gezellig” in Dutch.
In English it is pronounced “heh-sell-ick.”
According to Wikipedia, “A perfect example of untranslatability is seen in the Dutch language through the word gezellig, which does not have an English equivalent. Literally, it means cozy, quaint, or nice, but can also connote time spent with loved ones, seeing a friend after a long absence, or general togetherness.”
It means everything from cozy to friendly, from comfortable to relaxing, and from enjoyable to gregarious.
Just one word and eight letters in Dutch, and it takes Wikipedia and me two dozen words to try and summarise, define and understand that one Dutch word, of which there is no English equivalent.
In fact different cultures prescribe different words to various emotions, and words to express a particular emotion may not be found in another language.
I have learned that all languages have strengths and weaknesses.
Recent observations have taught me something about the Dutch.
Firstly, many Dutch will explain something, and then secondly, they’ll add an English translation to emphasise a point they wish to make, or ensure understanding.
Frequently I now do it myself!
Consider this example in English and the possible interpretations, depending on the emphasis you give different words. (𝒃𝒐𝒍𝒅 𝒊𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒊𝒄𝒔 added)
“𝑰 never said he stole my phone”. Suggests I never said it, but someone else did.
“I 𝒏𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 said he stole my phone”. Suggests that I never said that at all.
“I never 𝒔𝒂𝒊𝒅 he stole my phone”. Suggests I may have implied it, even if I didn’t directly say it.
“I never said 𝒉𝒆 stole my phone”. Suggests that I didn’t say that boy stole it, but some other boy did.
“I never said he 𝒔𝒕𝒐𝒍𝒆 my phone”. Suggests that I never said he stole my phone, but perhaps he borrowed it.
“I never said he stole 𝒎𝒚 phone”. Suggests that he stole someone’s else phone, not mine.
“I never said he stole my 𝒑𝒉𝒐𝒏𝒆”. Suggests that he stole something else, but not my phone.
𝐄𝐦𝐩𝐡𝐚𝐬𝐢𝐬, changes meaning – a lot!
What have you lost in translation?

Don’t forget to laugh!

A fun experience from Belgium last week.
Departing our hotel room, on the second floor, fully loaded down with all our luggage, we arrived at the lift.
Our unspoken plan was to take the lift to the ground floor reception and checkout.
The visual indicator showed that the lift was on the ground floor “0.”
We both looked at the lift call buttons and independently of each other, we pushed the call buttons.
One button pointed upwards, the other button pointed downwards.
One of us pushed up, the other pushed down.
Quizzically, we looked at one another, thinking “Why did you do that?”
Do you remember the classic book on communication styles, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” by John Gray?
The book highlights the key differences between how men and women think, act, and communicate.
I must admit – that was my first thought as we stood waiting on the lift to arrive.
We turned to one another again and laughed!
It was a silly moment, but one that highlighted the simple differences between our thinking.
Stepping into the lift, we did finally arrive at our destination, after a short detour upwards, to the third floor!
After 28 years of marriage, our conclusion is this…
No two people ever see all things precisely the same!
Understanding and appreciating one another’s differences is the key to healthy relationships.
And don’t forget to laugh – often!! 😅
𝐀𝐫𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐥𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐞𝐧𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡?

Customs

Do you have any customs or habits in your country that communicate information in an unusual way?
A few weeks ago, whilst up in Leeuwarden, we discovered one about the Netherlands and had absolutely no idea what it was!
It was 12 noon on the first Monday of November, and we heard a very loud wailing siren which went off for a minute or two.
We thought it was some kind of huge factory siren, informing the workforce it was the lunch hour!
As it continued, it became a little disconcerting.
However, we needn’t have concerned ourselves too much.
A little bit of further research informed us that it was actually the Dutch emergency siren test.
It certainly caught our attention the first time we heard it.
Now we understand that it is a regular monthly test that lasts for approximately 90 seconds. All 3,800 emergency sirens throughout the Netherlands are set off simultaneously.
I also received a text message this month, which I am guessing is also some kind of test.
The monthly emergency siren test is a normal part of daily Dutch life.
It reminded me of the one o’clock gun, back home at Edinburgh Castle, which is now great for tourists.
In the late 1800’s it was an important part of aligning ships chronometers in the Firth of Forth.
Each of these customs form an important part of the structure and foundation of our societies. In some ways they provide constancy, stability, familiarity and a semblance of order and predictability to our existence and our community.
We communicate in lots of different ways.
What unusual customs do you have where you live?

Understanding

“Do you understand what I mean?” he asked.
In many relationships, one of the big barriers to understanding is a lack of communication, a lack of talking things out, a lack of keeping things in the open. Oftentimes whilst counselling, one half of a relationship will sit in brooding silence, hugging any grievances close to their heart, rather than being open and honest.
Pressures can mount, small things are magnified and frequently much more than is true can be imagined in their minds by either party. Fragmentary listening, misinterpretation of ideas, and mistaken meanings of words can cause misunderstandings. And so there is much not knowing, much mistrust, much heartache, much unhappiness and sitting hurting, in silence. Happiness will not survive in pent up places.
So how do we strengthen these relationships?
We need to engage in meaningful conversations.
It all starts with the greatest of all the communication skills, and that is being an effective listener. That means slowing down. Being listened to is one of the highest forms of respect and recognition. Really listening is not about gaining information, rather it is to gain understanding.
Some years ago Marvin J. Ashton said “Communication is more than a sharing of words. It is the wise sharing of emotions, feelings, and concerns. It is the sharing of oneself totally.”
Regularly setting aside time to talk where there are no distractions can help to solve problems.
Why not start today and resolve to listen a little more.
When will you set aside time to communicate and really listen?

One by One

Over the last 30 + years, I have had many opportunities, with 1000’s of individuals to provide coaching, counselling or to share in a mentoring session together.

There are numerous articles, suggestions, models and books outlining what makes a great coaching conversation. In addition, I have also contributed to many discussions in lots of forums on the topic too.

I was however recently reminded again of a blindingly obvious point, it is this – simply stated, these conversations happen 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙗𝙮 𝙤𝙣𝙚.

Intimate one by one conversations enable the most effective and powerful opportunities for change to occur. Giving someone your undivided attention for 30, 60 or even 90 minutes creates a powerful, meaningful, candid and insightful crucible for change. It is distraction free time.

Frequently, during these one by one moments a “reality check” occurs for the coachee. Indeed, a coaching conversation is perhaps the most personal and powerful form of communication and change that there is.

If you want change to happen, then you need to slow down, make time, listen to understand and consider the power of a coaching conversation, 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙗𝙮 𝙤𝙣𝙚.

Who will you hold a coaching conversation with today?