In other words - how to handle a communication breakdown

I have long been pondering on the topic for this article which hopefully will initiate a whole series of articles dedicated to all sorts of mechanisms governing English language as well as methods and approaches one can apply to learn English successfully. I have finally decided that the article should combine both theoretical and practical aspects of the language usage, and with references to the field of sales when they’re relevant. I believe everyone, regardless of their level of command of English, will find it interesting in whole or in part and will be able to put the knowledge gained into practice.

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This article will not cover typical sales talks and techniques since that is the domain of many other great experts who regularly contribute to this periodical. Although such contents may appear, as sales is inseparably connected with language and communication in general, I will rather focus on conscious application of grammar rules, specific vocabulary, useful phrases and expressions and some communication tactics as well. With all that said, let me start with introducing an important and efficient method of improving communication in every situation you may encounter in your business and private life.

Missing words

Have you ever been in that awkward situation when, trying to express yourself or simply get a message across, you were not able to carry on and got stuck, because a crucial word or phrase eluded you? You probably started to feel the internal pressure which had come from yet another feeling—that your interlocutor was growing impatient with your sudden pause followed by jittery mimicre, gestures and even more embarrassing fillers like ‘aam…’, ‘mmm…’ or other sounds designed to prolong the inconvenient break. I bet each and every one of you has. And from my experience, that is the moment when most people lose their confidence and get taken by a swirl of stress. Is there any way we could subdue it? Is there a simple technique we can apply to overcome those difficult and stressful situations? The answer to both questions is ‘yes’.

The first question addresses the problem of a mental attitude, strongly intertwined with personality traits and the overall character of a person. It refers to what I mentioned in a paragraph above—feeling the internal pressure and making assumptions which do not have any confirmation in reality. If you never feel such stress, you may as well skip this paragraph. But if you are a person who tends to get stressed in such situations consider this: when an unexpected break occurs during a conversation because we can’t find the right word, we envision that the person we are talking to cannot wait for us to finish. This gets worse when we wrongly interpret our interlocutor’s body language—any movement of their body will be a sign of impatience towards us. And this is exactly where our problem starts—in our mind and in our erroneous judgement. Never assume what your interlocutor thinks or feels as long as they do not verbalize it. The fact that you lost your tongue does not mean that they immediately get impatient. So for starters, get rid of this harmful feeling which stops you from finishing what you started in the first place. Of course it is easier said than done, but it will come to you in time if you just focus and notice the fact that you create hampering thoughts in your mind.

Once you get over it, there is the next step to be taken. And this is the answer to the second question asked above. However, there is a simple technique of managing one’s utterances, it is not easy. It requires much study and practice as it is directly connected with language mechanisms. So, what is it? It is simply saying something IN OTHER WORDS. This is what I personally call FINDING A DETOUR to achieve your destination. You might say: ‘And this is it? This is your trick? There’s nothing revealing nor effective to it.’ And yet I dare to say—there is! Stay with me and you will soon see how our learned communication patterns can be a hindrance to finding detours effectively. And know this—it’s not a magic trick and it’s not solely a specialty of acknowledged orators. Everyone can improve their communication skills by practicing PARAPHRASING and learning SYNONYMS, because this is our topic in hand. And in order to do that you will need a small but proven set of exercises to be done when studying English which are designed exactly to enhance those skills.

Let’s focus on the approach first, though. I would like you all to realize the fact that the problem being discussed here lies in our own, personal approach to how we communicate. It is natural for all of us to use ready-to-go language patterns which speed up or facilitate communication in our native language. Those patterns are not equally acquired in English and therefore we will not be equally effective, which is why we must drop them and forget about them. Nevertheless, we have to understand what basic meaning they carry, so that we can transform them into sentences available for us in English. To show you what I mean by that I will give an example using Polish language with no loss to readers who are native speakers of languages other than Polish, as sentences will be translated. Let’s consider the following sentence: “Wpadniesz do mnie później?” (‘Will you drop by later to my place?’).Here, we are using a colloquial and informal verb which is literally represented by a phrasal verb ‘to drop by’. Imagine that this sentence is supposed to finish your utterance and create an incentive for your interlocutor. You all of the sudden got stuck since you can’t recall how to translate “wpadniesz” into English. In this case it does not really matter if you sound too formal or not, childish or eloquent—what matters is your message, which is basically this: “Wpadniesz do mnie później?” = “Odwiedzisz mnie później?” (‘Will you visit me later?’). Focusing on what we want to say, on the basic meaning of the word „Wpadniesz”, we can easily say it in other words or FIND A DETOUR. And it is not a strategy reserved only for master communicators, public speakers and so on. It is a universal language mechanism which can be perfected by anyone, although it takes time and effort.

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