When Traditional Communication Repair Strategies aren’t Enough: Part 1

6 Traditional Communication Tips

As an accented professional  you have many tools available to improve your communication.  There are many ways to increase communication effectiveness between individuals with different language backgrounds.  Here are seven tips that both non-native and native English speakers can apply to improve communication effectiveness.

  1. Speak (or request the other person to speak) more slowly
  2. Watch your communication partners’ body language for signs of understanding and confusion
  3. Repeating what has been mis-communicated
  4. Ask if your communication partner understands you
  5. Say (or request the) message to be said with different words
  6. Saying each word completely, pronouncing all relevant consonants

Commonalities of Speakers with Different Language Backgrounds

There are many commonalities when English is spoken between people of different language backgrounds.  Those commonalities are:

  1. We all want communication to be easy.  We can make it easy with some mindful auditory and visual listening strategies.
  2. Our bodies don’t usually lie when we don’t understand something.  Facial expressions and body language give clues of how effectively we are communicating.
  3. We take what’s unfamiliar and make it familiar to match what we already know.

Nontraditional Communication Tip

These commonalities lead us to an additional MINDFUL COMMUNICATION STRATEGY that goes beyond the 7 aforementioned tips.  After you notice that your listeners’ body language indicates confusion, provide BACKGROUND information for them. This will make the unfamiliar more familiar to your communication partner.

Background Information Improves Communication

Here is an example of giving your listener BACKGROUND INFORMATION.  I was discussing strategies for repairing communication breakdown between communication partners of different language backgrounds.  A colleague shared a story of a French speaker who was attending a personal transformational workshop.  The French speaker proceeded to share how he freed his conscience when he became truthful with his wife about an infidelity he had committed.  Unfortunately, the other group participants misinterpreted him and were offended by what they thought he said.  If this insightful compassionate man would have  would have provided background information, he could have prevented the communication breakdown.  Perhaps, if he would have given background by saying something to the effect of:

My wife and I were having trouble in our relationship.  I didn’t feel close to her, and I thought I could find emotional closeness with another woman.  I ended up doing something I later regretted.  I kept it a secret for a long time though.  I finally realized I needed to tell my wife what I had done.  I needed to try to repair our relationship by being honest about what I had done and why I did it.  I finally told her I cheated on her.


Perhaps you have circumstances you will encounter that present opportunities for repairing communication breakdown.  Take advantage of these learning opportunities.  They are opportunities for growth.  If you notice that slowing down, speaking more slowly, repeating the message, saying the message with different words, and pronouncing all consonants is just not enough to move forward with communication exchange, try giving (or if you are interacting with a non-native speaker of English, try requesting) BACKGROUND INFORMATION.  If you are speaking English as a second or other language, ANTICIPATE what additional information your listener  needs to know.  If you are a native English speaker needing repair of communication with a non-native English speaker, ask him for BACKGROUND information.  Go ahead and try it out.  Giving or requesting background information is one more strategy that you can use as an alternative if the traditional communication repair strategies aren’t enough.

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