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Lost In Translation - Issue #4

Sunletter from Ondřej Bárta
Lost In Translation - Issue #4
By Ondřej Bárta • Issue #4 • View online
Real power doesn’t reside in strength but in shaping the world to your will. In words, there’s an invisible force that can create, build and destroy worlds. Anyone who can read, write, and speak well is near-invincible in the contemporary world.

I work daily with people from various cultures all across the world. For the collective to stay on top of things, productive, and most importantly, happy, people need to be able to communicate effectively. That’s what keeps things going in the right direction. But especially in a culturally diverse group of people, it’s easy to lose that. And even in a culturally homogenous setting, it might not be so straightforward.
Although there aren’t specific rules for different cultures, there are observations you can make and act upon. And tailor your way of interacting with people. In this context, I cannot recommend enough The Culture Map written by Erin Meyer. It outlines the differences in communication between different cultures. For example, French people may not understand your criticism as criticism if you’re not explicit about it. That’s not to say you should change your personality to fit in. Instead, make the best out of what you can offer and what you’re good at.
So, I would like to share with you a couple of principles that helped me become a more effective communicator. I started creating this list of rules in my head long ago. This is the first time I’m putting them in writing.
Be transparent, especially when things are going south. This is the most important rule if you aim to have an honest conversation. From my experience, the main reason people are not transparent is fear of retaliation when things don’t go as planned. If you’re in a position for it, make sure you create a space for people to be transparent. It’ll pay off once there’s a crisis, and people won’t hesitate to reach out to you before it’s too late.
Know your audience. It’s very easy to leave people confused when you start talking about your field of expertise. This can leave them frustrated. Instead, take the time to explain things clearly. It will take more effort, but with time the effort will decrease as you’ll be trained in explaining things to distinct audiences.
Use structure to your advantage. It’s common knowledge that people tend to read only the titles of articles online. In the book, Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the author uses data to find that people rarely read the conclusions of books, so he stops stressing too much about writing an exceptional ending. Especially at work, I generally use pyramid communication, notably trained by BBC. In short, it’s a form of communication where you write like you’d write a news article. First, a headline with the most crucial information, and as you continue further, you add more details, always according to their importance to the reader.
Be assertive. This one can be a difficult one to learn. What I mean, mostly, is reaching out to people. You might be surprised that even people you wouldn’t expect to be reachable can be. Whether it’s a person sitting in a coffee shop or an Instagram personality with thousands of followers. I found that a surprising amout of people respond well to this sort of attention. All it takes is stepping forward and be nice.
Avoid abbreviations unless you know the other person knows what you’re talking about. Often, the friction introduced to the conversation by using abbreviations isn’t worth it. A technical example of this that I’ve encountered recently. I’ve seen the usage of “RTL”. My interpretation was “right-to-left”, as in language that’s read from right to left, like Arabic. But the author intended it as “react-testing-library”.
This has been a non-exhaustive list of rules I’ve been following at work and tried to follow in my personal life. I certainly have more soft rules, but I found that it helps to have a couple of simple but solid principles that can lead the way.
On the other hand, no book or a list of principles can fully prepare you for all real-world situations. You have to go and see what works for you and your environment. I would like to believe that these rules apply in every setting, but I’m also sure that this generalized advice would fail horribly somewhere. Do let me know if you have some similar communication principles or whether you agree or disagree with any of mine!
So, that’s that! I sincerely hope this will help you become a more effective communicator. For some, effective communication is a matter of life and death. After all, you wouldn’t want to be hanged because of a comma.
Have a wonderful Sunday!
PS: This topic has been on my mind for a long time. Interpersonal communication is one of the most interesting subjects to me. Of course, as an asocial person, I had to create rules around it (:
PSS: Often, I recommended people this article about writing emails to busy people. All the points hit the target quite well.
How to email a busy person & get a reply - DESK Magazine
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Ondřej Bárta

More personal than Twitter, less personal than a fika. No awkward silence, there's always something to say.

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