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What is the Key to better understanding?

By | David Klaasen | Helping You Create Clarity, Inspire Your People & Drive Performance | Retain your best people | Changing Management Mindsets and Behaviour | Practical Behaviour Analytics

Relationships can be the most exciting part of business especially when you meet a new client who not only really needs your product, service or expertise but wants it because they feel you understand them and the issues they face. But relationships can also be the most challenging part of our lives. The more you look at all the claims going through Employment Tribunals, the more you find that about 95% of them have the breakdown of a relationship as the initial cause of the problem.

What I love most about the work I do is having the opportunity to get to know and understand people; their needs, wants and aspirations. Growing up as a Dutch kid in Ireland in the 1960s was a rather strange experience. I looked pretty much the same as my peers and we shared the same Dublin accent but once I went through the front door of my house I was in a different world. I never really noticed that two languages were being spoken. I never had to consciously learn Dutch; I just grew up speaking it. I also didn’t hear that my mother and father spoke with a heavy Dutch accent. If my friends teased me about the way my folks spoke I just dismissed it; “That’s simply not true – they don’t sound like that!”. They certainly didn’t sound like that to me. I honestly couldn’t distinguish that they didn’t have Irish accents until I was in my late twenties and I heard a recording of them speaking. Somehow that objectified the sound of their voices and I could clearly hear a strong Dutch accent! It made me smile and realise that my friends were right all along; my brain had simply not registered it.

Separated by a common language

I was recently talking to my wife Pam (she’s originally from the outer suburbs of Detroit, Michigan) and we were laughing about how we are sometimes separated by a common language. And that’s the point – we often assume that just because we speak the same language we can all understand each other. But it’s never that simple is it? Understanding is not only making sense of the accent someone has or the words they use, but noticing the context of what they are saying from their point of view. It is about seeking to understand why they are using those particular words in that particular way and the mental maps they must have for them to speak that way.

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