Language and Nonverbal Communication

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By René Paula

I’ve discussed the importance of languages and multilingualism before, but even within a single language, there’s a tremendous risk of misunderstanding during business conversations. Why? People come to a problem with their own unique perspectives and backgrounds, so “common” terms may have different meanings or different connotations to each participant. And that’s within a single nationality or cultural sphere. When you expand to a global market and loop in people from different countries, regions, religions, and cultural norms and expectations, the potential for crossed wires and miscommunications skyrockets.

How do you make sure everyone is on the same page, talking about the same issues and the same solutions? Instead of purely communicating through language, try a simple method of nonverbal communication: drawing out concepts. I came upon this idea through Tom Wujec’s TEDx talk about drawing how you make toast, and I’ve become a huge believer in this thinking.

The idea is simple: everyone in a group sketches, in simple, nonartistic line drawings, what they think the problem is or what they’re trying to accomplish and how they intend to make it happen. You would be amazed by how many different ideas come to the surface just from that first set of drawings! Suddenly, everyone can literally see what everyone else is talking about. Areas where your thinking is still fuzzy, or differing notions of how something can or should be done, are suddenly laid out in black and white.

I’ve made this my standard practice, and now I have my clients do this whenever we meet to discuss an issue. I ask them to draw out what needs to happen next or what we’re stuck on. Before you know it, I’ve grabbed my own pen and jumped in. We work through questions and problems together, drawing out ideas and solutions. Sometimes we use paper, but we often work on the windows with dry-erase markers!

If you’re interested in clearer communications, better solutions, and a deeper understanding of what’s happening in any area of your work or business, try putting pen to paper to draw instead of write. Check out Draw Toast and watch your clarity take a quantum leap.