On the cusp of Fathers’ Day, our thoughts turn to the patriarchs in our families. Whether still physically in your life, or a mere memory, your father has more impact on how you communicate than you may realize. You learned at his hand how to connect with others, if not through his presence, through his absence, if not through things he said, through things he left unspoken,
When you think of your dad, what memories pop to mind?
How did he communicate? Do you admire that type of communication style and emulate it? Or did it teach you how NOT to communicate?
This week marks twenty years since my father passed away. I can hardly believe it’s been two decades. Even though he is physically gone, I think of him and remember his lessons almost every day. Can you relate?
My father was a francophone. Knowing that, you may conclude that he was very demonstrative and emotive. And you would be mistaken.
My dad was a quiet man of few words. He was not animated or emotive at all. I always knew he loved me — I just never heard the words from his lips. As a kid, I would say to him, “I love you, Dad”, and his reply was a pat on the head and a mumbled, “ya, ya”. That was it. He gave what he could and in a way that he knew.
POINT: people communicate and connect in the way they know how.
Maybe your father … or your client, colleague, employee or boss … communicate in a way that doesn’t really give you what you need. You’re not going to change how they communicate — but you can sure change how you do.
In my federal service career, I was fortunate enough to receive French training. And then it happened …
One night when I was visiting, I leaned over and said to my Dad, “Je t’aimes, mon pere” — the French words for “I love you, Dad”. He turned and responded in a heartbeat with the words I’d waited a lifetime to hear, “Oui, oui. Je t’aimes”.
And there it is. The secret of connecting.
THE SECRET OF CONNECTING: speak in a language THEY understand.
French was my father’s maternal tongue. What he wasn’t able to say to me in English came easily in French. He was able to deliver a message using a vehicle, his language, that felt most comfortable to him. His doing so was immensely gratifying to me and a gift I cherish to this day. He was able to give me what I needed when I gave him the communication vehicle he needed.
Who do you know in your life or workplace who would communicate differently with you if you gave them a different communication vehicle?
Maybe you’re reaching out with email, and this person relates to face-to-face dialogue instead. That presentation you’re preparing may be perfect for someone who likes lots of detail, but maybe your boss needs the info bottom line and brief highlights only. Or perhaps the words you’re using disconnect and don’t encourage your recipient to relate to your message.
My father taught me to communicate in ways he never realized.
Admittedly, some of those lessons I am still learning upon reflection. I willingly share these lessons with you in the hopes that you too will benefit as I have. He taught me to use communication vehicles comfortable for the other person or persons. Doing so encourages their participation and response and makes it easier for them to express themselves. This lesson was priceless. It gave me the gift of hearing magic words from my dad and it will help you connect with others too.
Hats off to dads.
If you’re privileged to still have your father in your life, or perhaps to be a father yourself, during this upcoming Fathers’ Day weekend, I tip my hat to you and yours. Fathers know and teach a lot, and if you’re fortunate, you’ll learn the lessons in their living years so you can tell them–in their language–how much they mean to you. And they, in their language, can reciprocate.
© 2014 Marion Grobb Finkelstein
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