Communication Breakdown

Why a Language Barrier Can Improve Communication

In my last long term relationship, it took years for me to feel like we had solid communication. Even after that experience, I've found that most of my conflicts in relationships have been based on communication issues.

Last year I met this awesome dyslexic German dude with a bad phone. As you can imagine, our first few weeks of text communication was a little dicey. The new phone helped, but more importantly I learned to decipher his messages.

You'd think that being in a relationship with someone whose first language is not your own would make communication more difficult, but I would actually argue the opposite.

One tool that I believe helps improve our communication is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. These four things can be very challenging to do at times, but we are much happier when we do them.

Here are some reasons that speaking different primary languages can help meet the four agreements, along with some considerations when we both speak the same language.

1. Be Impeccable with your Word

When speaking a second language, everything you say requires a bit more thought. If you are speaking to that person, you need to consider how to best phrase it in a way that they will understand. If it is not understood the first time, you may get creative in explaining yourself or think of better words to use.

When speaking with our language peers, we can use this idea by pausing to think through what we say before we speak.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally

The other day I finally made a dish I had been talking about for ages. When he tried it, my Guy said something like, "it's good, you should try this thing I make..."  This immediately rubbed me the wrong way because the tone he used implied, to me, that he only thought it was OK, and what he had to make was better. I brought this up to him and realized that the tone was a language thing, and he really did enjoy it.

Even when there is no language barrier, we can take things people say personally. Next time someone says something that bugs you, ask for clarification. If you can understand where they are coming from, it is easier to take things less personally.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions

This goes along with what I said about taking things personally.  Another way we make assumptions is when we say things in short hand, assuming the other person will get our meaning. This does not always work when that person is not native to the same language.  We have to step back and be clear with our intentions.

Sometimes I start a conversation with someone midway through the conversation I was having in my head.  I have to step back and remember that the other person may not see things the way I do.

4. Always Do Your Best

If you trust each other to always do your best and have the other person's best interest at heart, you can move through a lot of communication barriers.

You can do this whether you have the same first language or not.

So, the next time you come across some challenging communication, try to remember to step back and think so that you can be impeccable with your words, not take anything personally, not make assumptions and always do your best!