Communication as the key of a good collaboration
Where would we be without communication? Is life even possible without communication? While it may have different shapes, forms (or sounds), communication is paramount – from the simplest form of life to the most evolved. Of course, I’m not going to dive straight into a biology lesson, but I’ll refer only to the way we, humans, communicate (effectively).
First things first – definitions
As linguists, you are probably passionate about words, dictionaries, etymology etc. I know I am! As a rule, whenever I give a presentation, I like to introduce the term or concept I am talking about by means of its dictionary entry. One of the definitions of the word ‘communication’ found in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English is: “the way people express themselves so that other people will understand”. I really like this, especially the last part, as I believe that we sometimes fail (either completely or to a certain degree) to express what we want properly, which can lead to misunderstandings. Don’t even get me started on how much more likely this is to happen in writing, where there are no visual or audio clues to help. Sure, you can use emoticons or emojis (which seem to be evolving into a new language), but they may not be appropriate in all circumstances.
Second things second (just kidding, no such thing)
How do we or how should we communicate in order to make sure our message is not lost in translation (pun intended, I could not help it)? What is it that we communicate and what details may affect what the other party understands? Let’s see:
1. Be personal: Starting your email with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, ‘Dear HR Manager’ etc. will communicate that you have sent this to several people and you don’t care who gets back to you. It says that you don’t think they are special (they may not be 🙂 ) and any of them will do. It may also say you’re a bit lazy can’t be bothered to do some research to see who it is you should be addressing (not always applicable, especially in very large companies).
2. Don’t text like a teenager: BR (for ‘Best regards’), PFA (for ‘Please find attached’) or LMK (‘let me know’ – I saw this gem in a discussion on a translators’ group on Facebook) – while this may save you a precious few seconds, the message it sends is: I’m lazy.
3. Ask questions: I cannot stress this enough – if you are unsure about anything, make sure you ask, don’t assume. If the project manager cannot deal with your queries, they should be able to pass them on the end client. A lot of misunderstandings and mistakes can be avoided just by asking (the right) questions.
4. Keep a professional tone: and by that I don’t mean not being friendly (I am actually good friends with some of the people I work with, we go out for coffee/wine/lunch and we talk about all sorts of things – from politics to hot movie stars *ahem*), but avoid being rude. Sometimes you may come across as rude unintentionally, true, but when you are annoyed about reasonable follow-up questions and tell your client so, you can be sure they will not want to work with you again.
5. Be straightforward: whether the topic is not up your street or you don’t think you can deliver within the deadline, just say so. Don’t wait five days after the project was confirmed and accepted (with a deadline of seven days) to say that in fact you won’t be able to do it.
6. Communicate your value: why should a client choose you over another linguist? What is the added value you offer? Is it your many years’ experience in a different field? Is it the extensive CPD you did in a narrow specialist area? Is it your creativity? Whatever it is, make sure you communicate it properly.