What prompted you to seek training?
I’ve just been on a business trip to Pakistan. One of our clients over there pointed out that my business partner and I were using too many words, and that we could improve our communication skills for that market.
What will you use the training for?
I’ve already used it actually. So as well as spoken English, some of the tools you gave me were usable on Whatsapp. Lots of my clients out there use Whatsapp as their main communication tool, and just that thing of shortening what you say, repeating things so they’re understood, and removing phrasal verbs was so helpful. It’s really interesting, this Pakistani colleague that I work with, he still uses some of the things you told me not to use, to the point where I can see OK, that’s stopping that person asking a question.
It’s much harder for the other person to get a word in if English isn’t their first language, and giving them enough space to do that is harder than you think.
Yes, and I’ve noticed that even when I’m cutting back on what I’m saying, even when I’m keeping it really simple, I think I could reduce it even more.
It's funny how when you start to look with those eyes, you really start to notice how much of what you say is redundant, it’s just a case of switching your brain on to that kind of thinking.
Yes, I know that I’m a bit of a talker, but when it comes to written English, because that’s what I’ve specialized in, I tend to remove needless words and get to the point quicker.
So it sounds like you already felt you had skills when you were writing and less so when you were speaking, but now your written skills have improved which wasn’t even the aim of the training.
Yes, very much so, even in writing just separating the ideas, making sure there’s only one question at a time.
Yes, short sentences help, and breaking down your ideas. I’m so glad it’s been useful.
In Pakistan I’m talking to CEOs, and people of that standing, and a lot of it is about relationship building. Getting them to ask for what they want.
And putting the ball in their court?
Yes. If you’re an expert in your field, then you may have a very rich vocabulary in that area which your listener just doesn’t share. If you can drill that down to just a few hundred words then you’re really communicating, and you’re building relationships, instead of it just being a big info dump.
Which part of the training had the biggest impact?
The back to back exercises were excellent. (Frank and I sat back to back and I spoke to him in Spanish. This was to replicate for him what it feels like to speak on the phone in a language you’re not confident in.) I mean I know a bit of Spanish, but I could only understand about twenty percent.
Oh you mean the first time we did it, when I was speaking in a very natural way and making no concessions?
Yes. That was a real eye opener. I mean you were talking about my field of expertise, so I thought I’d understand more than twenty percent. I just started zoning out.
What about the second time? When I used a few little tricks to make my speech easier to understand?
That was immensely powerful. It really put me in the listeners shoes, helped me be more deliberate about what I say. You know all this takes me back to my time in TV. They used to accuse us of dumbing things down, but what you’re actually doing is taking the same content and making it more accessible. That's what you're doing too.
Who would you recommend this training for?
I can definitely see how it would benefit large businesses, like call centres, to maximise communication, but I also think there’s an application for business to business selling, or even academics. Most experts have a certain way of communicating which gives authority to what they’re saying, there’s lots of jargon and abstract language, but it’s pure artifice. They should be able to cut out all that padding without diminishing their ideas. You can teach them how to do that.
For Frank the most powerful part of the training was when I spoke to him in Spanish. If you'd like to see how I use Spanish, this web page contains videos. See for yourself what a huge difference it makes when someone speaks slowly and clearly.
Do you use interpreters?
They are an expensive resource. How to work effectively with an interpreter is a half day course which will show your staff how to make the most of interpreters, recognise competence in interpreters, and work in harmony with them.
English Unlocked is based in the North East of England, but both courses are available as a webinar.