I Need an Interpreter
I am the proud grandfather of 4 little boys. Thomas, who is named after his grandfather, just turned 4 in September. Joe just turned 3, Andy will turn 3 within the week and Isaac is 18 months old. Oh yeah, and grandchild #5 is due late in December. Spending time with these guys is one of my new favorite activities.
However, communicating with them can sometimes be a real challenge. Not being an expert in child development, I would say that each of the boys is progressing at a very normal rate in their verbal skills. Thomas, being the oldest and the one who goes to preschool, is the easiest to understand. He is starting to learn to put his thoughts into sentences so that other people can understand what he wants or what he wants to tell them.
Isaac, at 18 months old certainly understands questions when we ask him. But he mainly answers questions whether he is done eating or wants more. He is also really good at saying “hi” and “bye”, although I would say that he yells them more than says them. He also says yes and no, but when he says yes, he says it very softly. Joe and Andy are a different story. A lot of questions are answered by saying “I don’t know.”
There are other times when Joe or Andy are really excited to tell me about something. They will look at me and go into a very detailed description of a toy or event. Unfortunately I can typically only understand a couple of the words and will have to look to one of his parents for help understanding the rest. The parent, who has a lot more experience communicating with Joe and Andy, will help me understand what he is saying so that I can continue the conversation. This happens far more often that I care to admit.
As small business owners and managers, we are often technical experts in our fields. Very often we are more well versed in our products and services than just about anyone on the planet. We know them so well that they become second nature to us. Sometimes this is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is obvious, but the curse is that sometimes we talk in language that is so technical or industry biased, that our customers or potential new employees look at us like I look at Andy or Joe.
Our job is to be more like those of Andy and Joe’s parents. We need to understand how to use our knowledge of what is trying to be communicated, and translate that into something our customers can easily understand. Not dumbing it down, but changing the words from technical to more common. In other words, we need to understand, learn and use the language our customers use, not expect them to learn the language we use. And that can be hard to do.
I love spending time with my grandsons and listening to their stories and ideas. I also look forward to seeing them grow in their language skills and being better able to communicate with them.