I've been at home over the last week because my wife has been sick with the flu and I've been looking after her and our three children. Yesterday I asked my two year old daughter to "Pick up your dolly and push her in your pram" she looked at me like I was speaking in a foreign language. I realised she didn't understand me so I said it in a different way "Pick up your baby and take her for a walk in your pram".
She immediately picked up the pram with a smile on her face and took baby doll around the house for a walk.
I was listening was a worship song the other day at church. There was particular lyric in the song that got my attention "we are covered by your blood". If you are a Christian you'll get the powerful point of this lyric, but if it the first time you are in a church and your first experience of Christianity you will probably be thinking about looking for the nearest exit because of the impending blood that was going to pour down from the special 'blood pipes' that are in the church roof. Maybe a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.
In that moment I also realised (again) that this is the same trap that I can fall into in my work and your church can also fall into if we aren't all careful. We can communicate in a language that is natural for us, but the person that is receiving the communication won't understand because they have never heard words or language used like that.
Here are four simple steps I take to try and avoid getting lost in translation:
1) I ask a couple of people to read what I'm writing/designing or preparing a script for shooting on video.
2) Do they understand what I want them to do as a result of the communication? (without me sharing any of the context being given)
3) Are there any words in the communications piece that they haven't heard of before?
4) After they tell me what they think I was trying to communicate, I tell them what I was attempting to communicate. If they are different I will revise the writing/designing/scriptwriting again.
(If you want to improve your communication skills more broadly check out the 10 communication commandments.)
How do you avoid getting lost in translation?
What bad examples have you seen? Comment below.