STATS – Day: 26 | Distance: 3976 miles | Location: Toledo, Ohio| Money Spent To Date – Gas: $419.05| Food: $296.15| Play/Misc: $85.73 | Lodging $304.50

Urban Garden Toledo, Ohio
Urban Garden
Toledo, Ohio

I’ve been working on an urban city-dwelling farm as a WWOOFer (labor/lodging exchange) for a couple days now.  When I first met the owner Mike, he seemed a bit scattered.  He would tell me a big list of things needed to be done, but no specifics on where, how, or priority….it would just be a big-run-on-one-sided-conversation.  Then I’d start to tackle something and he’d say, “oh, not now” and he’ll start talking about more things that needed done.  Then he’d say, “did you feed the dog?” and I’d explain that No, we’ve been walking around and talking about all the things that needed done and he’d say, “yeah, but the dog needs fed”.

<<< chuckle, chuckle, chuckle >>>

So instead of making myself crazy and getting upset with him in the process, I took a step back and observed him as if he wasn’t talking to me.  I just WATCHED HIM.  I realized he’s a verbal thinker!  Everything that comes into his head while he’s walking around he’ll say out loud as if he’s telling me, but he’s really telling himself.

Now that I have this understanding, I can alter my own interactions with him that benefits both of us.  I’ll be his sounding board for all the things he wants to remember and then afterwards I’ll pick 3 things that I’m interested in working on and ask him which one he prefers I do first.  After he makes his selection I’ll go further and ask specifics about that one task.

One of the thousands projects Mike wants accomplished
One of the thousands projects Mike wants accomplished

Because another thing I learned about Mike is that he forgets to explain details.  He assumes that when he says “move the chicken coop”, you already know how to move it and where to move it.  It never even crosses his mind that someone wouldn’t know how to do it.  By altering my approach, Mike gets some of the tasks on the list accomplished and I don’t go crazy.  Win-Win.

I was reminded of a previous blog #HarvestYourHeart where a farmer named Jim was communicating with the coyotes using a language they could understand in the marking of territory and using the height of urine on a tree to show how big of a beast you are.  Even when we are solely among humans, who speak the same language, and are from the same cultural background things can get muddy when it comes to communication.

Prepped for Ragweed Extraction
Prepped for Ragweed Extraction

This doesn’t stop at developing an understanding between Mike and me.  Analyzing behavior and managing expectations on both sides are sadly missed everywhere, especially in business.  I’ve run into it over and over again as a business analyst where my primary responsibility is translating business requirements into technical specifications or taking a change recommended by a technical group and explaining the end-result for the business.

It’s frustrating, no doubt!  Interactions CAN be improved by doing a few things:

  • Active Listening – This is not waiting for your time to speak.  This IS hearing to the words coming out of their mouth, observing their body language, listening their tone and paraphrasing it back in your own words so that you ensure understanding.
  • Don’t Assume!  As Ellen DeGeneres reminds us “You should never assume. You know what happens when you assume. You make an “ass” out of “u” and “me” because that’s how it’s spelled.”
  • Clear Explanations, Instructions and Expectations – If you are explaining how to do something, think about how you would explain it to an alien from another planet.  Demonstrate what to do. Give an
    Mike gave clear instructions that I was only to remove Ragweed and to leave everything else.

    example of what a satisfactory finished product/project would look like. Give clear timelines.

  • Use Common Language – Stay away from acronyms, slang, or terminology.
  • Be Responsible – If you say you’re going to do something, do it.  If it can’t be done due to X, Y, Z reason, then follow-up with the person and let them know.

The only thing you can change is Yourself.

Managing Expectations: The Most Underrated Leadership Skill

50 Life Changing Truths

Next Blog: #TheGathering

Previous Blog: #WhenYouGetLost

Back to all blogs for Pipe’s Adventure


5 thoughts on “#LostInTranslation

  1. All very true ! People miscommunicate all the time because they think that everyone should know what they know and that is NEVER the case. So glad you used your patience and skills to take the time to understand. This is something people seldom do.


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