In 1995, author Gary Chapman introduced the book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. The premise of the book was that people have personal love languages or communication styles and techniques that are as unique as their physical and personality traits. His assertion was that just because one person sees providing a foot rub to the other partner as an expression of love (and this would also be what that person would interpret when received as an expression of love), that the other partner may not. Similarly, technology has brought us to a place where we have trouble knowing how to communicate effectively because we don’t know each other’s communication language.
My three year granddaughter can override any electronic password, program the DVR in seconds, and update the latest anti-virus on my computer, seemingly intuitively. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but I’m sure you get the point, that generationally, technology is not something to be feared. The younger generations just do it without fear of messing it all up. They also communicate very differently and other generations have also adopted new ways to communicate through technology.
A doctoral colleague of mine, Dr. Jumanne is conducting a study on the cost of generational barriers of technology in business. His study is based on the premise that we assume everyone else has the same communication as us, and in using our preferred communication method (instead of that preferred by who we are communicating with), we are costing our businesses millions if not billions in revenue. How? Missed emails, voice mails, phone calls, letters, text, and the list goes on. I would like to add, that I do not believe this problem is isolated to the business sector, but that our communication language differences also effect on a personal level.
How many times have you been waiting for an email and the other person said, “I left you a voice mail on your office phone?” – You never check your office voicemail as you primarily use your cell phone. Let me illustrate with the following situation. Bob and Sheryl are in their late 60’s and their 30-something year old realtor emailed the couple with an offer for the sale of their home. He chose to email the offer instead of calling the couple on the phone and requesting an in-person sit down to review? This is how he conducts his business and wonders why some of clients seem to have a chip on their shoulder. Bob and Sheryl prefer a sit down so that they can understand what they see on the paper. Their young realtor, savvy in technology, believes that getting the information to the couple via email is the quickest and most efficient method of communication. Bob and Sheryl feel put off by their realtor and wonder how he is too busy for them if he indeed expects a commission.
Without communicating and letting the other party know our preferred method of communication, our communication language, we can drastically, negatively affect our business and personal relationships. Bob and Sheryl like new technology, but their communication language is direct. They expect to hear a voice- that is their communication language. Effective communication to build and nurture relationship with Bob and Sheryl is via phone call and/or in person. Had the realtor known this, he would not be in hot water with his angry clients that see him as rude and impersonal. The realtor could have simply asked up front by clarifying, “In the event of an offer I would want to provide you with the details of any offer as soon as I get it in. Would it be okay for me to email that over to you first? Or would you like me to call you instead to set up a sit down?” By simply asking the other person what their preferred method of communication is, we can avoid misinterpretations, misunderstandings, and communicate more effectively.
If it’s not bad enough that people need to become mind readers because of poor communication (as we assume the other person magically knows something we think that they should know), technology, generational differences, and the technology preferences associated become serious issues. The only way to know someone’s preferred mode of communication or communication language is to ask! Yes, we actually need to talk to each other- the most basic form of communication- talking.
So, yes, 30 years earlier, Joan Rivers was truly revolutionary when she asked the question, “Can we talk?” Although now, we need to revise the question to enhance our business and personal communication, “How can we talk?”
If we would just take a moment to realize that people are unique and to communicate effectively, this can’t be for our convenience. We can overcome this new miscommunication paradigm as we get to know each other’s communication language and it all starts with talking to each other.
Jolene is a leader with Toastmasters International and a member of the National Speakers Association. Her new book Thinking 101: Fundamentals of a Successful Mindset will help people overcome conditioned thinking which hinders personal and business success.