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No idea what you are talking about!

Published: Feb 28 , 2019
Author: Alan Smith

The BBC announced this morning a piece of analysis that suggested that the learning of German and French as a foreign language is about to hit an all-time low in the UK.

BBC analysis shows drops of between 30% and 50% since 2013 in the numbers taking GCSE language courses in the worst affected areas in England. Whilst a separate survey of secondary schools suggests a third have dropped at least one language from their GCSE options.

This seems to be particularly concerning as those of us who live in the UK are about to enter a trying time figuring out what Brexit means if it means anything at all and potentially distancing ourselves even further from our European neighbours and business partners.

How we talk about things has an incredibly important effect on how we think about things too.

Philosopher Wittgenstein suggested that the limit of the language was the limit of how we see the world, and it seems to me that the more insular we become the more damaging it may be. 

Perhaps the best quote on the subject came from Nelson Mandela who said that 'If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart.'

These two sentences are a powerful reminder that, if we want to build the kind of trust with people from that underpins any kind of relationship, we need to be talking to hearts, not just not heads.

This issue resonated with me this week when one the participants on a course in negotiation I was teaching asked me about how buyers typically see sellers, and what might they value in a cooperative relationship. The same question might also be asked by the other side.

For buyers and sellers to really understand each other, time should be devoted to trying to understand how each side sees success and what language each use to validate and acknowledge that success in their organisation.

Don’t see how the other side talks and thinks as a second language, learn it, engage with it, and maybe you can win both hearts and minds.


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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