Why good communication skills matter

Monday 3 August 2015

Deborah Brown, based in the United States, reflects on the importance of effective communication skills when working both in the US and abroad.

Working with a London based company…

On one of his visits to Philadelphia, our Vice President Guy Sellwood invited me to the city for a “proper catchup.”  In the course of the conversation we talked about what to eat and I mentioned that I was going to “splurge” and get dessert. “Splurge??, Guy said, to which I replied, “Yes, splurge. You know, indulge. Treat myself.”  Splurge was a word Guy had never heard before. Yet it is everyday language for me.

It made me think that many a misunderstanding has its root in the fact that we all interpret words and phrases according to our own context based on past experience. Our culture, and the country we live in, plays a big part in shaping our interpretations. But it goes deeper than that. I am ever reminded that although we all speak English, we do not speak the same language – and it goes way beyond British English vs. US English. At least with the Brits, I expect the occasional odd expression that I vaguely understand, like “a proper catchup.” Is that a “correct, tomato condiment to put on my burger?” No, it couldn’t be, but I’m certain there is a logical explanation, so I ask. I’ve been known to teach my British colleagues an expression or two as well (like splurge). But think about it: The obvious ‘odd ’ expression is easy to be curious about, and speak up to ask for clarification. Those conversations are often wrought with laughter and lots of give and take. The result is deeper connections and the occasional ‘inside joke’ that permeates across future conversations -- as has been the case with ‘splurge’.

With my US colleagues, different interpretations of words and events are just as prevalent, but less obvious (or not obvious at all) and therefore less likely to be questioned. Without the dialogue of q and a, there is too much room for misunderstanding -- and being oblivious to it, or worse, assigning a negative value judgment that is based on incomplete data (data which I conjure solely from the context of my own experience without the benefit of input from the other person).

The regular interactions with Guy and others at Prosell keep me ‘on my toes’, meaning, asking for clarification as I find myself wondering, “What does that really mean…?” so as to not make assumptions that undermine our relationships. I am grateful for our differences because they cause me to learn constantly, and learning is a “high” that I’m addicted to.

If you would like to talk to Prosell about improving the communication skills of your sales and customer services teams, please do get in touch. We would love to hear from you.

This post was written by

Deborah Brown

Prosell USA Senior Consultant