Insights & Ideas

What Language Are You Speaking?

Graphic of two people with speech balloonsCommunication is key, and never was this more apparent to me than when I found my 14-year-old self alone and utterly lost in the streets of Rome, Italy at two o’ clock in the morning.

“Whatever you do, stick together,” were Dad’s last words to me and my brother before we headed off for a jog together around midnight.

Off we went, on our last night in The Eternal City before returning stateside the next morning, jaunting through a wonderfully historic town. When we were only blocks away from finishing the run, we were separated by a streetlight that had turned colors while we were on opposing sides. I insisted that my brother finish the run and I’d be right behind him.

I thought I knew best. That was a mistake.

I was indeed a block away, but I didn’t realize at the time that I needed to turn down the road instead of going straight. I ran and ran, expecting at any moment to see the bright white shine of St. Peter’s Basilica rise over the horizon (to which our hotel was in close proximity).

Knowing next to no Italian, I couldn’t find my way to where I needed to go. I saw a man sitting alone on a park bench and asked him where St. Peter’s Basilica was in the best way I could get him to understand.

“Dove St. Peter’s Basilica?” I asked, knowing the Italian word for “where,” but not St. Peter’s itself.

“Ah, San Pietro,” he responded.

“Erm, no. Saint Peter’s? You know? The big one? Grande basilica?” I asked again as I motioned with my hands. It was at that point I realized I was now speaking to him in broken Spanish — not my finest hour. Luckily, I found my way back just before the sun rose.

With that in mind, let’s talk about how we tell our stories (from a business sense). It’s important that our clients, and more importantly our colleagues, know where the business is heading. When we do this, we need to speak their language, so let’s leave the corporate lingo at the door, shall we? In Rome, if I could’ve communicated in a language that the man on the bench could understand, I would’ve been back in no time.  There’s a lesson in there for all of us.

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