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The second stop in my Remote Year adventure was Prague, Czech Republic. When I first arrived, I immediately felt that the communication barrier between our group and those living in the city was more pronounced. I later learned that the Czech people have a very defined history that was greatly impacted by World War II, between the Nazi takeover in the early 1940’s and the Communist rule through 1989. Because of these impactful moments in time, Czech citizens are often more guarded and reserved in their interactions with newcomers. Once they do take the time to get to know you, they begin to feel like they can trust you more and build a strong bond.
During our first month abroad, we developed a group known as “Personal Growth” where we seek to better understand personalities – both our own, and those of our peers – and learn of new ways to communicate with others. This includes delving into our personal strengths and weaknesses, and determining what our life aspirations look like. We brainstorm ways to help one another achieve our goals through accountability groups, and meet weekly to discuss how listening can be just as important as communicating. We also take part in activities that teach us how to better approach tough conversations and what pieces of them are most important to observe.
In attending these sessions, we gathered that learning the history helps better inform our understanding of the culture and people in each city we visit. This was an eye-opening conversation for us all, as we realized how we all struggle to communicate more than we know.
One of the most difficult things to convey in day-to-day conversations is intent – what do we truly mean by what we are saying? What is the core motivation behind our words? When these questions are mixed with differences in language and culture, it can easily add an extra layer of confusion and misperception.
In comparing my own communication style with the individuals I met in Prague, I realize how important it is to practice active listening to better serve those around you. What this means is rather than trying to guide a conversation by your own words, take a moment to listen and take in what they are saying. Learn about the person’s background, and understand who they are. We are all so vastly different, and it’s imperative to take the time to disseminate those differences to understand how to best communicate with one another.
Milena Stancati is a Marketing + Business Development Manager for Allison+Partners who is currently spending one year working, traveling and living in 12 different cities throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.