Being able to say Hello in different languages helps with speaking the same language and shows respect for languages and cultures.

Have you ever had trouble speaking the same language as someone else? Or even knowing what the same language means? When we look past spoken language and signing, there’s a myriad of ways we can get things wrong – and right.


Some years ago, I got into a spot of bother by causing a participant to ‘lose face’. A clear case of not speaking the same language!

I was running a one-day advanced sales skills program in Brisbane for a national sales team. It involved videoing each participant completing two sales presentations – one at the start and one at the end after learning and practising new skills.

One participant needed to leave early to fly back to Sydney, so the Sales Manager and I agreed he would be the first to do his second video. The Sales Manager was from a similar cultural background to the participant. In this environment, he believed being a team player was essential.

We continued. The participant did his second video and left.

The National Sales Director called that evening, telling me the Sales Consultant had called, upset because I’d caused him to ‘lose face’ by making him go first.

I was mortified. I knew better. Yet on that day – in that moment – I disregarded what I knew and got it wrong. When I talked it through with my friend and colleague Tom Verghese from Cultural Synergies, he confirmed my error. It was a big lesson!

Back to Basics

At face value, communication is simple. A Sender and one or more Receivers engaged in a dynamic process where the Sender constantly changes.

Recognising someone speaks a different language, including signing, is easy. And, thanks to Tom and his colleagues’ work worldwide, we are more aware of cultural differences and how to respect them. Combined, both play a significant role in reducing or removing the risk of being considered tone-deaf.1

So what other factors help us communicate effectively – or trip us up? Let’s start with emotions.

  1. Emotions

Emotions, directly and indirectly, impact and influence how we communicate. How we are and who we are affects what we say and do, and how we respond or react. A good example might be how you ‘hear’ feedback from a colleague, employer or family member when you’re feeling good about yourself – as opposed to when you’re not.

  1. Types

Next are types of communication. I’m talking about verbal – the words and phrases we use, and non-verbal – through voice tone and body language. An excellent example of them working together is when you emphasise a different word each time you say the sentence “I never said he stole my watch” and realise it has seven meanings.

  1. Styles

The three main styles are aggressive, submissive and assertive. They vary in whose needs the Sender sees as most important. When it’s all about the Sender, we come across as aggressive. When it’s all about others, we come across as submissive. Being assertive, where both Sender’s and Receiver’s needs are important, is the most effective. Assertive communicators use ‘we’ statements more than ‘I’ or ‘you’.

  1. Sensory Communication

We often use words related to our five senses. The most commonly used or preferred are kinaesthetic, visual and auditory. Knowing your preferences – and someone else’s – enhances communication. If unsure, using a variety of generic and sensory words engages most people.

A good example is looking at the generic phrase “Does that make sense?” and sensory variations:

  • Kinaesthetic (touch) – Does that help you grasp this?
  • Visual (sight) – Have I painted a clear picture for you?
  • Auditory (hearing) – Does that sound right?
  • Olfactory (smell) – Does that provide a fresh perspective?
  • Gustatory (taste) – Does the idea still seem bland?

Sensory communication also applies to how we learn. That’s why writing, listening, watching and doing are essential in programs and courses.

  1. Gender Differences

Men and women communicate differently2. It’s a fact!

Women are generally more kinaesthetic. They are also more likely to talk more, share more – and ask more questions because of attention to detail.

Men are generally more visual. Plus, they are likelier to lose interest in long answers – especially from women. They also lean towards offering solutions when women talk. Men also tend to share less – only opening up when they need help.

These are broad generalisations that help descriptions. I’ve seen many examples of women in more male-dominated environments tending to use more visual language – me being one of them – and vice versa.

  1. Generational Differences

There are two main generational differences to consider – age and communication preferences.

Positively recognising someone’s age is about showing respect. Do you greet your grandmother the same way you greet your best friend? Or your friends the same way as your boss?

Plus, it is becoming essential to understand your audience and their communication preferences. You may prefer SMS or email. What do you do if they prefer a call?

Bringing it All Together

None of this is rocket science. And I’d be surprised if you weren’t nodding and saying “yep” as I covered these six factors. Highlighting something you use and use well.

When you pull these pieces together, adding them to what you already know, you have a better chance of speaking the same language. It doesn’t mean you will.

You can only manage what you bring to the conversation. How prepared you are. Expectations on the outcome. Communication skills you’ve honed.

Then it’s up to you to manage whether you respond or react. Whilst both influence the flow and outcome of the contact, responding is best. Yet there are times when reacting happens before you know it.

When that happens? Take a breath. Dust yourself off. Regroup. Continue. Then afterwards, review what happened – without overthinking. Decide what you did well, and what you could have done better, then discard the rest. It’s all a part of perfecting skills, so you’re speaking the same language automatically, under pressure, without any conscious forethought or effort.

Until next time…



  1. Tone-deaf Definition & Meaning –
  2. Many books look deeper at gender differences. My favourites include Brain Sex, How Men Think, Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office and Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps.

Reproduced with permission from the livepresent blog April 3, 2023 by Anne Whatley-Dale

Anne Whatley-Dale is the founder anddriving force behind livepresent. As awork-health-life specialist and strategist she works with individuals, teams and business-owners to cultivate a customer care, selling, management or life approach based on healthy communication and wellness. Anne can be contacted at:

[email protected] or on 1300 318 692.