Dare to Be Different in English: 5 powerful steps you need to take.
From the day we’re born, our life’s path is driven by expectations – our parents’, extended family’s, school’s, peers’, culture’s, society’s.
It’s expected we lead a certain life, make certain choices, go down a certain road. Veering off that path is not negotiable despite our soul screaming to be released.
We then arrive at the 2nd half of our life and look back in disbelief at our lack of courage. Why was I not brave enough to follow my heart? My soul?
Take your approach to English.
For years, you were told by your English teachers the ONLY way to be fluent was to master grammar, complete vocabulary sheets, take exams until you were mistake-free.
It was mind-numbingly boring, but you were expected to follow the rules. No questions asked.
You finally finished school or university and ditched English. What a relief!
Now, years later, your career experiences a change. English is now the lingua franca in your company.
As a senior professional,
> You’re expected to communicate seamlessly in English.
> You’re expected to communicate like a ‘native speaker’.
> You’re expected to be grammar-perfect, have a rich vocabulary, be accent-free.
> You’re expected to give an articulate presentation in English.
That’s enough to give you sleepless nights and break out into a sweat in your business meetings.
You take action. You go back to ‘school’ and follow the expected way. You go back to what you know.
Here we go again.
Mindless vocabulary sheets, grammar drills, controlled listening practice, artificial fluency practice about your hobbies.
Deep down inside, you know this time it won’t work. It isn’t you. It isn’t your reality.
What is your reality? Let’s take a look.
> Most of your clients/colleagues are international speakers.
> They make grammar mistakes.
> Their vocabulary is simple.
> They don’t understand those idioms you learned in class.
> They don’t understand the British/American colloquialisms your coursebooks taught you.
> They have different accents to those listening tapes/CDs.
What use do they have for your sophisticated vocabulary or your perfect use of the conditional tenses?
They want to understand your message. They want you to listen to them to understand, not to reply. They want you to tell them concisely and in plain English what it is you want them to do. They want you to speak their language, not textbook English.
In other words, they want you to communicate meaningfully and authentically. Not speak at them in ‘perfect’ English.
Trouble is…you were only shown one way of communicating in English. The expected way. The acceptable way.
And that is to speak, not communicate.
You don’t know any different. No one’s ever shown you another way. No one’s ever shown you a different way.
> A different way to communicate in English at work that is fueled by your strengths. By what you already know.
> A different way that allows you to reflect on your business reality, analyse it, adapt to it and apply it.
No one’s ever challenged you to dare to be different. To dare to take your learning into your own hands and mould it to your needs.
Now’s your chance. Let me show you how.
Here are 5 powerful steps you can take to dare to be different.
Step #1: Work from abundance
Start from your strengths. What can you do? What vocabulary do you already have? What works in your meetings, presentations? Write them down.
Don’t work from scarcity – I don’t have enough grammar, I can’t speak fluently, I hesitate too much. Don’t let those negative thoughts take over. Be kind to yourself.
Step #2: Prepare
Take 1 situation (an upcoming meeting, presentation) and prepare for it. Use your actual business situations, not simulated ones.
What is the purpose of the meeting? Who will be present? What is their level of English? What do they need from you? What do you need from them? What sort of questions are they likely to ask you? Do you have all you need to provide the answers?
Once you’ve done this work, ask yourself. Do you have the necessary language to communicate your message clearly, concisely and simply? If not, what are you going to do about it? Dig deep into your reservoir of acquired language through the years. You’ll be surprised by what you uncover.
Step #3: Observe
Walk into that meeting/presentation ready to observe.
How are your peers communicating? What language are they using? What are their reactions to what you’re saying? Are you listening intently? How are you responding to them? Do they understand what you’re saying? If they’re not, how are you rectifying the situation?
This may sound too much when you need to be concentrating on the meeting. But if you think about it, you naturally observe in your first language. All you’re doing now is applying it in English.
Step #4: Reflect
Take 10-15 minutes after and reflect on what happened.
Focus first on what worked. Focus on your strengths. What worked?
Be honest with yourself. What happened when that client couldn’t understand your point? Was it because of your English or because the point was a complex one and needed to be explained again? How did you deal with it?
What were the problem areas? Was it because of you or the other person? Was it because of a lack of preparation? Was it something in your control or not?
How could you change things? Remember not everything is in your control. Focus on what you can change. How could you do that?
Step #5: Apply and test the changes next time.
Apply those changes to your next meeting. Test them with your clients and observe their reactions.
It’s only through trial and error that you’ll boost your confidence and become as effective a communicator as you are in your first language. With the English you have.
Daring to be different means embracing your strengths and giving yourself more credit for your English skills.
It means discarding those vocabulary sheets, grammar drills and concentrating on what’s important in business, communicating meaningfully to build powerful relationships.
It means banishing those negative thoughts about your ‘bad’ English and yourself.
It means acknowledging that you’re not a school child obediently following teacher’s instructions but a senior experienced and successful professional who knows exactly what they need to be an effective business communicator in English and is not afraid to find the right coach to help them.
Daring to be different is your opportunity to finally liberate yourself from the shackles of English grammar.