Have you ever had the opportunity to listen to a speaker from another country, or from a culture that is very different than your own? If you have - and most people have - you may have noticed that they use different words than you. Perhaps you found them odd, but you were able to piece together what they were saying. Or were you?
Our backgrounds influence us in many ways when we communicate: the accent and the choice of words are the most obvious. What isn't obvious is the emotional connection to the cultural, national, and religious narratives of the past. When an American hears "I have a dream", this phrase evokes an entire world of emotional response. But when a Brazilian hears it, it may mean nothing. When a British World War II veteran hears "We will never surrender", it evokes strong memories. But when a young Russian hears it, the emotional response may be blank. And similarly, phrases such as "let their be light" may be foreign to those who were not raised in a Judeo-Christian culture.
When we write or speak, we do so through the lense of our own backgrounds. Improving comprehension - and buy-in to your ideas - requires two key activities:
1) Unless we understand the lense of the speaker or writer, we may not understand the richness - or the nuance - of what they are saying; yet we will understand their words. Ask what they mean, or if there are any stories behind unfamiliar words.
2) To avoid alienating a diverse audience, you may need to reduce cultural, national, religious, and historical references. Or at least explain obvious ones in an unpatronizing way.
This week's action plan: The global nature of the internet means that your Blog posts, Tweets, and YouTube videos may have an audience well beyond your "normal" target market. This week, when you write and speak, (and Tweet, and Video) assume that your audience does NOT have knowledge of your history, culture, national, or religious background.
Randall Craig is an expert on Social Media Strategy and Social Media Policy; to find out how his workshops, webinars, and keynotes can help your team or add to your event, contact him through www.PersonalBalanceSheet.com, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Copyright © 2010 Knowledge to Action Press and Randall Craig. All rights reserved.
Publication Date: July 20, 2010
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