In the fall of 2013, I had the incredible experience of taking a semester abroad in Sydney, Australia. Aside from enjoying breathtaking views and learning about vegemite, I also gained a professional development opportunity in an unexpected place. One morning, I was speaking with a classmate who said, “Let’s grab brekkie before uni this avro.” Not wanting to look foolish to my new, cultured friend, I instinctively smiled and agreed.
It wasn’t until we were seated at a cafe enjoying the local fare, when I finally understood the meaning of what my classmate had said: Let’s grab breakfast before school this afternoon. The local slang and his unique accent had really thrown me for a loop.
This and a few other frustrating and often humbling experiences revealed that, in fact, cultural difference is just one example of what can complicate communication. Colloquialism and circumstance can cause a great deal of misunderstanding, even between the most tight-knit circles.
Therefore, the ability to communicate effectively in all areas of life becomes even more valuable. As I embark on my journey into the world of professional public relations, I appreciate the power of genuine interactions.
But how to apply this every day? I now have profound appreciation for those who took the time to help me understand. As a consequence, I pay it forward to those around me by asking questions and encouraging follow-up with any opinions or concerns.
Professionals may find it useful to navigate potentially confusing situations with clients or colleagues by asking questions, as well as clarifying concepts and deadlines. Sometimes, however, even the best follow-up in the world cannot overcome confusion. When in doubt, a good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting may ultimately be the only answer. At the very least, if you’re ever in Australia, it could save you from the devastating impact of ordering French fries without “tomato sauce.”