Communication Skills

How to communicate without embarrassing yourself

We stopped at the “7/11” store on the dirt road here in Hainan Island, China and they’ve added entertainment: a trained bird. It’s a tiny little bird and when you wave your index and middle finger just so, it flys to you. So one of the guys with us says to the young Chinese woman showing us the bird… well, no, he doesn’t just say it, he pantomines it, slowly and loudly acting out his question: WHAT…. DO…. YOU (pointing at her)…. FEED (making hand motions close to his mouth)…THE… BIRD (pointing to the bird)…TO EAT (imaginary chewing). Quietly she says, Rice.

I’ll give him this. I never thought she spoke English either. But it got me thinking about some other stuff we assume about people.

We assume because we speak the same language, they understand us. We assume because they seem different, they are. We assume that because they seem happy with their current supplier, situation, supply, they are. We assume our price is going to be too high. We assume they want something we can’t offer and at less than we could. We assume they have more information than they have. We assume we have all the information we need. We assume they won’t change. We assume they know what we want even when we don’t ask.

We all know the “definition” of assume. Ass-u-me. That’s what it makes out of u and me.

My communication basic for today is to stop assuming. And to start asking.

What about you?

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