Communication is MORE than Words
By Beth Standlee, CEO, TrainerTainment
I recently enjoyed a grand adventure, traveling internationally with friends. I even got to see my son, who lives in Madrid.
Communication was a recurring theme throughout the journey. It’s an interesting process no matter the language you speak. Lots of information passes back and forth even when the languages are different. We encountered Spanish, French, Italian (gestures work best with that group), and Greek! I promise the phrase, “It’s Greek to me,” is a good saying. For the life of me, I still can’t remember how to say thank you.
This 14-day expedition got me thinking about the importance of communication whether you’re traveling abroad, trying to train a new team member, executing a 90-day plan or living out a one-year vision. It’s easy to think you’ve said one thing, but the understanding by another could be completely different.
Communication isn’t as simple as a sender sharing the information with a receiver who gets (and understands) the information. I feel certain everyone reading this article can think of a time when you said, “Let’s do X” and the person (or persons) you shared X with actually did Y. In leadership or any relationship, that type of communication can be maddening.
There are many reasons for miscommunication. Some may be easy to see and correct, but at times it might not be something you could have anticipated at all. Case in point: My recent travels.
There were four of us traveling from Venice to Ravenna, Italy, where we were to board a cruise ship the following morning. We conferred well ahead of time and one member of our party, David, took the initiative to book the train and hold our tickets. We took a water taxi to the train station in Venice. All is good so far. At the train station, we realized none of us have any “train travel” experience but together, we navigated the platforms and so on. We found, however, that there is a “train language” – mostly in Italian – that was a struggle for all of us. Finally, David and I talked with an attendant, who helped us understand when the digital board would communicate our “gate” information. She used a different word than gate, which was confusing to we inexperienced train travelers. Nonetheless, all was good. We would travel first to the city of Ferrara and then, transfer to our final destination.
During the first leg of the trip, David shared that we’d only have eight minutes for the transfer. Oops! That sounds tricky and it was the first time I received that communication – or at least it was the first time I was aware of how tight the connection was going to be. I’m certain we talked about it when we booked the tickets, but it must not have sounded like too big of a deal then.
But it was a big deal. First, we … okay, I … overpacked. Handling my big bag, small bag, backpack and purse was a pain in the derriere. (You get the picture.) The train stopped, we exited quickly, and began to frantically look for where we needed to be for the next train. Our tickets said “PE” so, we thought that probably meant “Platform E.” There was that communication thing again! We only saw numbers and no letters. We couldn’t make heads or tails out of the digital signage board because it, too, “communicated” that we needed to be at PE. Each of us began to talk to other travelers and while they spoke “train” better than we did, they didn’t speak much English!
We finally left the platform and that eight minutes ticked by quickly. The Jeopardy theme played in my head as we climbed a lot of stairs with all the luggage! (The boys helped with that, thank goodness.) David headed to the ticket counter, showed his phone, and learned that “PE” refers to the “bus stop.” Now, how could we have possibly known that when we were looking to board a train? They use buses instead of trains for transfers on Saturdays apparently. I’m sure the company thinks they communicate well but not so if you don’t speak “train” or have traveled the route before.
Needless to say, we missed our bus! Our choices were to wait two hours, using our tickets for the next one, or hire a driver for about $120. I was up for either option, but my travel buddy and I had started the day in Spain, so we were pretty pooped with our automobile, plane ride, speed boat, water taxi, train experience.
So, sooner would have been better for the two of us. Still, we all decided to wait and make the more economical choice. We found a spot across the way to eat. Oh, remember all my luggage? Yes, we had to haul that around while all of this is going on. After some pizza, wine and patience, we made it to the port city so we could depart on our cruise the next morning.
Communication continued to be an interesting study throughout the trip. Our foursome had new opportunities, challenges and options, and together, needed to strategize, compromise and plan the next step. I couldn’t quit thinking about how much this might be just like a new team member trying to navigate their first day on the job. They have no clue about the language of your center or your facilities. Often, they have no work experience and we can’t know if they understand the messages we are sending out unless there is some type of confirmation.
Words are only about 30-40% of any message. After a two-week journey through four countries, I’m convinced more than ever that our body language, facial expressions and tone communicate the rest of what we really mean. Checking for understanding is an efficient and kind way to ensure what you share with others is truly understood.
Bon Voyage! I hope you prioritize upping the communication game in your business and your life.
Beth is the CEO of TrainerTainment LLC, a training company devoted to the family entertainment and hospitality industries. Beth and her team are focused on helping the companies they serve to make more money through sales, guest service, leadership and social media marketing training. Training products and services are delivered in person, through books and DVDs, and virtually with e-learning courses, webinar development and 24/7 online access. Visit her company’s website at www.trainertainment.com.