What I Learned About Communication From A Swiss Bakery

Blog Post Breakthrough Results

Throughout the earlier years in my career working in marketing, I learned how important communication is to my effectiveness at work. A few weeks into one of my first jobs out of college, I realized that the salespeople in the company were shooting over ideas and requesting to attend events on a one-off basis. This led to a lot of back-and-forth emailing and fire-fighting because many times events would be submitted last minute.

At first, I was stressed. But when I took a step back, I saw the opportunity to streamline the communication by hosting monthly calls for the different sales teams, based on the industries they served. On these calls, sales people were able to share the events they are interested in, and the whole team was aligned on which events were the most valuable.

After the process was implemented, quite a few salespeople reached out to me and shared how much they appreciated the new streamlined process. As a result, sales grew steadily, and more leads were generated. This is a prime example of communication increasing the effectiveness of teamwork and output.

I wasn’t always this patient and structured about communication. Let me tell you a story that happened during my teenage years. I learned a valuable lesson about communication during a trip with my mother to Europe.

No Patience, No Compassion

On the trip, my mother and I were purchasing some pastries at a local bakery in Switzerland. Knowing that our trip was coming to an end, my mother was trying to pay the bill by scrambling through her wallet and digging up the last local coins that she had, so that she wouldn’t need to carry them with her.

While she was busy doing that, I noticed the ladies behind the counter talking amongst themselves, in a language that I didn’t understand, and staring at my mother. Within a split second, I felt enraged.  “They must be gossiping about my mother taking too long to pay!”, I thought to myself. I had assumed that English was their first language and that they were speaking in another language so that I couldn’t understand what they were saying. At that point, I lost my cool and stormed out of the shop. After going back on the tour bus, I broke into tears, feeling sorry for how poorly my mother was being treated. I had never been that angry before in my life.

Looking back at the situation a few years later, I realized how naïve I was. With a quick Google search, it’s easy to see that the four main official languages spoken in Switzerland are: French, Italian, German and Romansh. English is not even on the list! How I wish that I had this piece of information before rushing to the conclusion that the Swiss ladies were badmouthing about my mother. This might be a silly example, but it really goes to show how important it is to also have some patience and compassion in our communication.

Communication and Results

A lot of times in our workplaces, we receive constructive feedback from people that want the best for us. However, usually, our first reaction is to get defensive and pretend that we didn’t need their advice. Worse, this kind of knee-jerk reaction could tarnish our relationship with others because we assume they are “out to get us”.

Take it from me, the next time you are communicating with others, when a comment just doesn’t sit right with you, pause for a second, and think of alternative explanations for where they were coming from, rather than assuming bad intentions from them. You might just be that much more effective at dealing with interpersonal relationships at work!

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