I’m five days into my trip to England and other than the obvious differences, such as their very fine British accent and the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the road from those of us in the US, I’ve noticed another interesting difference in British communication- they’re awfully polite, but still clear in what they’re trying to communicate.
For example, their “YIELD” signs don’t say yield, but “GIVE WAY.” Think about it. A sign that screams YIELD can seem very demanding. A sign that says GIVE WAY seems to ask you to be courteous of others and let them have a turn. This simple example is indicative of an overall attempt on the part of the British to communicate effectively, but kindly. It’s a lesson I think those of us who tend to be overly direct, could probably learn from.
Rather than saying, “Shut up and stop interrupting me,” or even the slightly nicer version, “Be quite and don’t interrupt me,” why couldn’t we say, “I’m happy to listen to you once I’ve finished speaking”?
This week, in your attempt to communicate clearly, directly, and succinctly with others, take a step back and ask, “Is this the nicest way I could say this, while still being clear, direct, and succinct?” Another tip, especially if you’re communicating in writing, would be to say what you’ve written out loud, and ask yourself, “How would I feel hearing someone else say this to me?” If the answer is, “Not too great,” see if you can find a nicer way to say the same thing.