The universal communicator

This past month my husband, brother and sister-in-law spent time abroad on an amazing journey which brought us to several countries where English was not broadly spoken or understood. While visiting those countries I came to the realization that there is, without any doubt, a universal communicator so to speak, that transcend any language barrier.

I realized we often leverage this universal communicator without even knowing, and for some, it is a trademark. It opens doors to further communication, it weakens aggression, it establishes a connection, it softens attitudes and it does all this without a single utterance of a word.

It is the genuine SMILE. I know, some of you are rolling your eyes and wondering what other “pie in the sky” statement I will write. I’m sure some will not espouse to my theory and that is fine. These postings are a reflection of my experiences, therefore I am not assuming that all will agree, but I challenge you to consider its validity.

I especially noticed the effect of this universal communicator in foreign lands. In Thailand and Vietnam I noticed that when I sought information (price of items, directions etc) taking a moment and smiling before the actual inquiry seem to put most at ease. It wasn’t always easy to get my point across or decipher the response I got, but the attitude changed immediately if smiles were offered at the onset of the interaction.

I also noticed that while walking down the streets, when eyes would meet, a smile almost always was assured a return smile; even with the ones who seemed to frown or scowl the most. Smiling is not something foreign to me, especially when looking at people I don’t know. However, in foreign locations, the results of a genuine smile seemed more apparent. I made efforts to do so with everyone whose gaze I could catch, and it almost became a game of observation for me.

Seldom did I not get at least some form of a smirk, sly smile, head nod. Most times people just returned the smile and occasionally I received a word or two which I assume might have been a hello, good day, or equivalent. Being an optimist, I’ll assume those foreign words weren’t something negative!

It seems so simple… a smile. I needed to be reminded of its powerful tug is can have on the heart, mind and soul of human beings. It was comforting and empowering and made me feel that even though I couldn’t utter a word, a connection was made, even if it was for a fleeting moment in time.

I’m sending out a virtual smile as my closing… Cheers to you!

Ability to travel is a gift!

As I sat waiting for the train to take me to Madrid, I was approached by a woman who was trying to figure out what she had to do to get to the Atocha station.

She had a German accent and spoke very little English or Spanish. The station attendant only spoke Spanish (this is a local station) so I tried to help her out.

I remember being in a similar situation in China, with very few speaking English. I somehow figured things out but bot without challenges and lots of unnecessary walking.

Over the years I have learned through all my travels with work how to be prepared for travel, especially in foreign countries.

With the advent of the Internet it has become so much easier to plan things ahead of time. Things as fundamental as knowing the schedule of trains, planes and other mode of transportation goes a long way. Knowing if there are more than one airport or station is also critical.

I really appreciate all I have learned during my years in the corporate world and now, rather feeling lost, confused and frustrated as this woman was today, I can sir back and enjoy the adventure!