Ask Me A Question In My Own Language

I spoke with a friend recently, who mentioned a consultation he’d seen when a professional assessed a patient but failed to establish a rapport with any of the questions they asked. Fortunately my friend realised that none of the questions meant anything to the patient – that the person had an entirely different set of interests and experiences than those of the professional.

So my friend supplied some of the clues and the session started again, and the professional was able to carry on a meaningful conversation at last. It was as if they had been speaking two foreign languages with no translation possible.

How often have I done this myself? Asked questions with technical terms and met a blank stare? Or worse – met hostility as the person I was talking to became angry at the barrier they thought I was putting up. The result would have been dissatisfaction on both sides and my opinion of the other person would have been wrong.

So – the challenge for me is to communicate effectively by finding out what language the other person speaks. And I have to be prepared to learn it myself to make the thing work. It’ll be a complex task in some instances as I’ll have to imagine links I might not have thought of before – but then I’ll be learning as well.


The Fountain Pen – Dear Sir…

Dear Sir,

Enclosed please find my cheque for $ 89.43 in payment of your invoice number 567 dated the 5th of January, 2018. Please return the receipt to the above address.

Yours faithfully,

And another piece of business is done. Provided the cheque has the correct date, payee, amount and numbers, and has been signed correctly…and provided that there is money in the account to cover it…the invoice should be paid for and the debt discharged. Well done.

The business of business is rarely taught in the historical style these days – and so much of the flow of money and words is done electronically that the young may pass into their legal majority ignorant of the correct forms of address and attention that business requires. While it is true to say that business comes down to demand and supply, and these can be done with barely civil forms of communication, there is social judgement inherent in even the simplest exchanges. In short, if you write like berk, you will be treated like a berk.

Let me de-berk you.

If you write to demand a payment, write clearly who you are, and where you are. Give the date when the demand is made and detail the reason for which it is made. ie the invoice number. If there are governmental numbers such as an ABN number or other taxation details, list them and tell the person that it is a tax invoice. This is law.

Being polite is also law, though only upon a social basis. If you are polite initially you will have no reason to apologise if further demands become stiffer. Also remember that an invoice, statement, or demand for payment passes through many hands and they will all judge you. You are not obliged to please or flatter, but you must not offend.

If you write to tender a payment, say what it is for in clear detail. Many offices have a great deal of business in hand and appreciate a quick route to the correct spot in their records. Help them to find it, and they’ll help you to get your receipt faster. You’ll also be marked down mentally as a reliable person with whom to do business – a valuable thing.

Note that it is also good manners to proffer a note of payment even if your transfer of money occurs via Direct Debit. Oh, they’ll see that you paid in the bank statements, but seeing it also as a letter is good communications.

And good communications make for a continuance of good business.