More on my vacation in Israel… While on the Golan Heights in a town called Katzrin (check it out for the Golan Heights Winery), I visited Boaz, the son of a close friend. Though his primary language is Hebrew, he learned English at home from his father. His wife, Leah, is a native Russian speaker from Moldova (actually a part of Rumania), who learned Hebrew when she arrived in Israel at age 17. They have three wonderful children. Boaz speaks to his three children in English, while his wife speaks to them in Russian. Boaz and Leah speak to each other in Hebrew. The kids usually answer their parents in Hebrew, but will occasionally answer in English or Russian, especially with guests that have particular language abilities. It’s not uncommon in Europe and the Middle East for people to grow up with 2-3 languages. These kids usually become so brain wired as to eventually pick up 6-7 languages.
How do these kids put all these linguistic pieces together? Because the experience of growing up in a multi-lingual environment is common, I don’t think it requires superior intelligence, although it helps. I think it is more a matter of adjusting to one’s needs. If a child needs something from dad, English is best. If the child needs something from mom, Russian is best. But when they need something from sister or brother, Hebrew is best.
So too, when we approach people in the work world, inside and outside the company, we need to find the language that they speak, in the broadest sense of the word. It would be nice if they all spoke the same language, but the reality is that we each speak with a different inflection and understanding of our words. It is incombant upon the communication initiator to tune into different speech patterns and to decipher the meanings during the couse of the conversation. This is a great skill that many possess only at an infantile level. But if these children can put the communication pieces together, so can we. They say it takes longer to learn any given language in a multi-lingual house. I’m not so sure about that. Certainly the end result is a much more dynamic person, more aware linguistically and culturally, able to more naturally interpret meaning.
Businesses strive to keep understandings simple. Ergo, KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid). That is certainly a well understood concept in selling and it applies equally well to internal communications. Yet, turning to the example of multi-lingual children, perhaps it is also valuable to communicate in a variety of manners, verbally, written, visually, using different examples, reaching for quality communications each and every time. Information comes in many forms and the types of communication are understood with varying levels of difficulty. No two customers think alike. And while it is absolutely imperative to find the commonalities between customers so that you can present a logical group of services to a logically defined market, consider that each person is on their own wavelength. Each needs to be understood for who they are as individuals. We as service providers should be putting the pieces together for better communication and execution each time we address our customers and our employees. Just as multi-lingual children develop communication abilities based on the people they meet in life, so should you develop your communications based on the customers and employees you come across in the course of business.