Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Learning to Serve Through Language

English is my first language. I am however bilingual with Arabic as my second. And although I took Spanish in High School and tend to use it here and there living in Arizona, I cannot say I'm fluent in it.

Growing up, my parents spoke to my brothers and I in Arabic at home and we'd respond in English. My grandmother (God rest her soul) didn't speak English. So she would say a few words and we'd use hand gestures and visual cues to maintain a conversation.

I am confident to say I'm fluent now in Arabic - Speaking, Reading and even Writing. I'm slower at grasping than I was before but am starting to strengthen my language all over again. All thanks to my husband, where English is his second language.

What is even more amazing is that our dialects are different being that we grew up in two different nations. Since everyone knows his dialect is more delicate, I'm trying to learn it and speak it more.

When learning any new language, it's not just the words you're grasping. You're picking up the meaning and the cultural habits behind it. And it got me thinking in the last few weeks - what makes his dialect more "delicate" as I put it?

It demonstrates servant leadership at its core.

By simply swapping one word, you can go from being demanding to serving. Over the years through different leadership classes, I was mentored on how to approach my peers, subordinates and managers. I would come off as "bossy" and "pushy," to keep this post G-rated.

I started framing statements into questions as a way to bring people on board with me. I tried to reference someone's idea to show how I was listening and asked how we could use it or build upon it. At times when I had to give orders, the statements came with confidence and grace and an explanation as to why it had to be done.

I am still trying to master all of that and continue to look for ways to improve my communication. And now I found it. If I could take the concept behind my new dialect and translate it, I'll be one step closer to being more approachable.

Traditionally I would ask -

"What do you want help with?"

In this statement the you can be offensive and that alone can make the question less delicate. Rather I ask -

"What do you want me to help with?"

By adding me, you're removing the focus on the person and creating a team environment.

I also mentioned that English is a second language to my husband and this has been a lesson in itself. When communicating with him, there are phrases and words I would traditionally use that do not make sense when translating to Arabic.

So I've become selective when choosing how I say something to ensure it doesn't come off wrong. As we expand our global presence, this is a crucial skill we need to master.

Language is not only the words.

It's how we order the words.

It's how we select the words.

It's how we present the words - our tone and timing.

Language is key to how we interact and communicate with those around us. Be mindful for how you order select and most importantly present your words.

If you're a Star Wars fan, you would recognize that the Master of all Jedi's, Yoda, speaks in a different form than we do.

"Patience you must have young Padawan" and in this example he's emphasizing what you must encompass - Patience in this case.

As you set off into the galaxy communicating, remember what you're intent is and don't be afraid to start with that.

It is way better than inadvertently offending someone when you set out to compliment them.

Enough said.

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