When I say the word “family”, what do you think of?

I think of my immediate family and my parents. Perhaps you think of something else, maybe you include your siblings (I have none), extended family, friends, a club you belong to or something else? 

There are so many different filters from which we process our language that we cannot always be sure we are talking about the same thing. Let’s take a woman speaking to a man, from a different ethnicity, country, city, class, company, values, beliefs, assumptions, etc – there’s a lot of room for differences.

Most of the time, we believe that people understand what we are saying. We almost take it for granted that they do, especially if we are speaking the same language. But even there, there can be misunderstandings. There are times where we know we need to double check, hence intercultural courses explaining different behaviour. 

If we really want to be sure that the other person understands, we can ask them to reiterate what was said in their own words. We can see if this matches what we expect and if it isn’t, there we can spend further time clarifying. On the other side, you can also say “To make sure I understand you properly, is this what you mean?”

This is important in many aspects of life, in client relationships, work partnerships and family so take the time to understand what others are saying.