Very few Americans are bilingual. This is way different than other countries. I’ve delivered workshops in Puerto Rico, Montreal, Poland, China, and Germany. In each of these places, I’ve been able to teach in English to an audience that knows English as a second (or third…or fourth…or fifth language). That’s not a knock on the USA nor is an excessive compliment to Germans, Puerto Ricans, French Canadians, Poles, or Chinese. It simply is. I must say it’s impressive though.
It’s the language of the person who you desperately need to influence. It’s the language that they are most comfortable speaking and making decisions in. Let me give you an example.
Dave is the CEO of a tech firm. He’s come up through the ranks and is a geek first and leader second. Now that he’s the Top Dog, his subordinates have the challenge of influencing him to do certain things and make certain decisions. Let’s say that his HR VP Fred wants to institute a work/life balance initiative that involves flexible scheduling as well as an on-site daycare facility. Dave’s going to push back on this because as he says, “people are here to work and I’m here to make a profit. They need to work while at work and play when they’re home.”
Does Fred have a chance?
Yes, provided he makes his case while speaking Dave’s language.
Fred needs to position his ideas so that they show a clear, profitable, value-add. Rather than push the fact that people will be happier, he needs to stress that even though the daycare facility will cost X amount, it will save three times that amount in recovered absenteeism from daycare issues. The flex schedule might not have an immediate dollar value, but Fred needs to show how this will cut back on turnover, a figure he needs to identify before he even proposes it.
In other words, Fred needs to speak the language of logical persuasion. It’s Dave’s native tongue. Sure it would be nice if Dave would simply look through Fred’s lens, but it’s probably not going to happen.
Can you learn to speak a new language? Absolutely. Here’s how:
- Identify the person you need to influence.
- Study them. Ask people who know them how the person makes decisions.
- Identify their language.
- Find people in your inner circle who are similarly “wired.”
- Work with them to hone your skills.
- Finally, bring your proposal, complete with the new language, to the person you have to influence.
This isn’t manipulation. It’s simply using your ability to relate to your own advantage. After all, don’t you appreciate it when people frame things the way you’re comfortable seeing them?
Your challenge this week is to learn at least one new language. Fluency is a major key to your success.