Communicating Beyond Invisible BordersBy
I not only experienced physical shock as an unprepared freshman wearing rain boots in two feet of snow, but I also experienced a type of culture shock while learning to adapt to the people and life around me. Instantly, I noticed the differences between the two regions of the country. People dressed differently, spoke differently and certainly acted differently.
As a student studying public relations and business, I’m constantly focused on the act of communicating and connecting with people –skills that have definitely grown since my move to the north. I believe that it’s important to understand the little differences between the many ways of life in the world, and by evaluating these distinctions, we are more likely to succeed in the public relations industry.
Language Differences: Let’s talk about the word “y’all.” If you ask anyone from the south, “y’all” is a word, or better yet, an abbreviation of two words. By combining “you” and “all”, suddenly you have a southern accent. Believe it or not, “y’all” isn’t the only word derived from regional dialects. My friends in Pennsylvania like to enhance their vocabulary with “yinz” or “yous” to describe a group of people. It has become a new hobby of mine to go back and forth with my Peppercomm co-workers about words that stem from our various corners of the world. Imagine their faces when I tried to describe the word “catawampus.”
Self-Branding: Beyond our dialect or accent, communicating who we are, or our “self-brand,” is directly influenced by where we’re from. Whether we like it or not, our surroundings impact how we present ourselves. As communications specialists, it’s essential that we establish a solid “self-brand” before we take on representing the brands of our clients. So embrace where you’re from and don’t be afraid to incorporate a little southern charm, west coast ease or east coast pride into your personal brand.
Communication Styles: Depending on your day-to-day lifestyle, your work habits and communication techniques are likely to vary. From personal experience, I had to adapt to a faster work pace when I relocated to the north. In public relations, it’s important to know the different lifestyles that people live in order to better understand their approach and reaction to various matters. Understanding people and their backgrounds will not only help you relate to different audiences, but will also make you a better communicator.
In a country that covers more than 5 million square miles, it is no wonder that regions have developed different cultures. These “invisible borders” have the potential to disrupt communication, but by mastering the art of understanding others we will succeed.
by Lauren Earthman