Last weekend I went to an art exposition at Maison Particulière in Brussels. They are displaying their own collection for their fifth anniversary. It was an inspiring afternoon.

One of artworks inspired me to write this piece on communication. You see the artwork “Love letter to an unkown person” from the Belgian artist Fabrice Samyn in the picture above.

For “Love letter to an unknown person”, Fabrice Samyn asked seventeen translators from different countries to translate, one after the other, a love letter. He sent this text on a journey along the line of latitude on which Belgium is situated (50° North). The letter makes a loop since the original language is French as well as the ultimate target language, which reveals the impossibility of being completely faithful to the subtleties of a language. The text is charged with the sensitivity of the translators and it is interesting to note that some impart a lyrical style to it, demonstrating the propensity that some cultures have to associate love and romance. In addition, it also demonstrates the difficulty that nations have in understanding each other. (Extract from the catalogue)

This artwork reminds me also of a game played as a child. It was about whispering a phrase in the ear of the one sitting next to you. At the end of the row of people, it was always surprising to hear the 2 difference versions: the starting phrase and the last version. It was never the same.

When communicating via face-to-face, meetings, e-mail, social media, we all like to get our message through in the way it is intended. And that will not always be the case, even when our intention is to be as accurate as possible. Different factors will influence it: the urgency and importance of the matter, your relationship with the person(s), event(s) that happened just before, and even your personality… These same factors will also influence your audience in hearing your message.

In communication not only culture and language are influencing factors, but also the human factor and the way of bringing the message. Therefore it is so key to get a good understanding of your own favorite way of communication and of the favorite way of others, and to learn how you can adapt your communication style to get better results.

The good news is: you can learn to become a better communicator and listener. It will demand some exercise an extra attention, but it will be rewarding in your contacts. What is your experience? Feel free to share.


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