I spent the weekend working a Latino Rodeo and Festival at the fairgrounds. Good thing I paid attention in Señora Alarid’s class, otherwise I’d been more overwhelmed than I was. I was in charge of getting the folks (who paid a GOOD price to get into the festival) to sign up para la rifa del carro (for the car raffle) on Sunday. I pieced it all together and even remembered a few gems like, “good luck,” “good afternoon” and “see you later.” That part of the language barrier I handled pretty well…the second part was a bit trickier. I soon learned was that my watch and the watch of the promoters were about three hours apart…my “open at noon” was their “3 o’clock.” My mom says it’s always been that way and will always be. She calls it the “mañana factor.” She’s fluent in Spanish and I could have really used her this weekend…but without her I was left to my own devices…my blackberry which came in handy when I realized I was saying Rodeo wrong after a day and a half.
The point of all of this is to reiterate the value of speaking the right language when addressing your audience. Whether it is another dialect, another industry or another age group, the fact remains that everyone’s experience is better when you speak their language…or at least attempt to do so. I’d like to think the fact that I happened to be working the front gate added to the positive experience that these folks deserved after paying $10, $15 & even $20 just to walk through the gate. I’m sure I was a bit of comic relief as well since they never expected those words to roll off my tongue, but they were amenable to listen attentively to my recitation of the rules for entering. For me, it was a lot of work screaming over the Mariachi’s in Spanglish…but it was worth it.
I remember in the mortgage business the loan officers who constantly used jargon and lingo that would make a poor customers’ head spin…it should just never be taken for granted that someone knows what MIP, or HUD or PMI mean. It’s just downright nasty to hear all of that in a loan closing. Most of the time a customer is too embarrassed to tell you to go back and explain because they do not want to look uneducated. But how many of us get so comfortable in OUR world that we forget to adjust to someone else’s? It’s probably one of the most important lessons in business whether you’re in sales, customer support or even behind the scenes. I created a few rules that keep me in check when I veer off onto the Acronymical Highway, (E.C.R.U.’S.):
E – Everyone I interact with—whether co-worker, vendor or client—IS MY CUSTOMER
C – I will utilize the tools and technology provided to me to communicate BEST
R – I am responsible for their experience
U – I will spend the time that is necessary to understand the question in order to provide the correct answer
S – I will speak their language first, and then see how mine fits in
ECRU is not really an acronym; it’s a word meaning, unbleached and raw…just like a simple conversation ought to be. Obviously if your job is to speak to rocket scientists, this may be a little more complex than a little “keep it simple stupid” rule, but the overall theory works. Always, always, always speak the language your audience can best hear. And if your audience speaks a completely different dialect, take a few minutes to learn a phrase or sentence that shows you’ve taken an interest in them. There are oodles and oodles of translators on google…so have some fun with it.
If I keep my conversations and speaking engagements true to these five simple thoughts, chances are I have kept it on a level that works for my audience. And at the end of the day, your audience is probably the source of your bread and butter as it is mine, so it’s worth the extra work to find out if they prefer tortilla’s over corn bread!