Why finding the "right" word isn't so important

RADA in Business Tutor Sandra Miller

May 2014

As the geographical reach of our work continues to expand, I seem to have been working in Europe a great deal recently. This means I am working with delegates for whom English is not their first language. As ever it makes me feel embarrassed about my meagre attempts to speak anything other than my mother tongue and the issues it can throw up are interesting.

For me the most interesting of these is the lack of confidence in people when it comes to their perceived necessity to "find the right word". As far as I am concerned I am so in awe of anyone who can stand up and communicate articulately in a language that is not their own that I am totally prepared to forgive the odd howler. In fact I would go so far as to say that the use of language is entirely personal at the best of times. Of course clarity (of both delivery and meaning) is essential but I am questioning my previous fixation on the need to encourage delegates to express themselves in precise terms. Providing speakers are crystal clear about their objective for speaking and assuming they have prepared and rehearsed, I would rather people presented in their own way than get hung up on finding the "right" word.

Having spent seven fairly fruitless years studying French in school, I only achieved any real success at conversation following a couple of terms at the Sorbonne. This was not as a result of the grammar I was encouraged to study daily, but because I was living in a hall of residence and needed to communicate with my peers. I remember the howls of laughter at my mispronunciations and mistakes but as an adolescent I was not deterred - silence was not an option - so I was forced to speak my version of the language. Eventually this began to resemble something that the odd Frenchman might vaguely recognise.

I am hoping that our work in Europe will develop and thrive and that we continue to give confidence to delegates who are less certain about their version of English. As Rumi (13th century poet) said "Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.”

RADA in Business at the CIPD Learning & Development Show

April 2014

You can catch us at the CIPD Learning & Development Show at Olympia in London on Wednesday 30 April & Thursday 01 May 2014.

The Learning & Development Show is one of the leading showcases of workplace learning and development. If you are planning to attend come along and see us on stand 440.

We will be at the exhibition on both days and at 1.45pm - 2.15pm on 30 April we will be delivering our seminar Creating Flexible Leaders in the Learning Arena. Led by RADA in Business tutors Claire Dale and Jac Mathews this presentation will examine how L&D can enable leaders within their organisations to manage the challenges they face in a more flexible and resilient way.

In addition, over the two days one of our senior tutors, Sue Meadows, will be on holding complimentary 10 minute one-to-one coaching sessions on our stand. Even in such a short space of time you will pick up some valuable tips on how to become an effective, engaging and confident communicator.

To find out more or book your one-to-one, please contact Emma Oakley on or 0207 908 4821.

You can register to attend the exhibition here.

Good Customer Service starts with Communication...

Senior Business Development Manager - Elizabeth Barber

March 2014

As simple as it sounds, it is so easily forgotten. Ever more so apparent in my experience recently when travelling to Italy. Two planes, a week apart – both delayed with the same problem, resulting in us sitting on the tarmac both times for over an hour. And yet, both experiences had an entirely different effect on the passengers, as a result of the communication we received from the captain… or didn’t.

On the way out, with our plane already delayed an hour – no surprise with the gales blowing across Britain – we finally piled on expectantly. The holiday hoards stuffed in – half term so plenty of children, and all the extra luggage that goes with it – the doors were shut and the engines switched on. We started taxi-ing and the safety video pressed to play. We were off at last… But then the Captain came on. “We are sorry, but it appears we are going to have to go back to the stand. It seems there is a discrepancy with the passenger list and this must be checked”. Of course some resigned sighs, and worried thoughts about missed connections. But on the whole, a relaxed forgiving mood in the plane. Once back at the stand - the Captain, in his friendly, warm, and ‘collusively’ frustrated tone announced “ Actually it seems the problem is a dent was noticed in the plane, whilst the baggage was loaded. Whilst I am totally sure this is nothing to worry about, you will understand that it is protocol to have this checked by an engineer…(blah blah) … tell me this will only be 10 minutes wait…blah blah…but rest assured I would not fly if I wasn’t entirely happy the plane was safe…” etc etc. We were kept informed, all the information we needed, pre-empting peoples angst, and in an empathetic manner.

The story couldn’t have been more different on the way back. After piling on to the plane, cramming the ove-filled overhead lockers shut, and wrestling ipads from children as the safety announcement starts, we then waited. No engine starting. No movement. No announcement. In fact, nothing.

For a good 30 minutes.

Needless to say, passengers get restless. They want to know what’s going on. Angry people start to demand for information from the crew…

The first announcement from the Captain – 40 mins later – “ This is the captain. And I will not tolerate any aggressive behaviour towards my cabin crew. I do not need to tell you that safety is paramount to us and we must check that the plane is safe before leaving…”

Turns out there was another ‘dent’ spotted in the aircraft. (I can only assume that we managed to get on the same sorry plane on our journey home.) But the same problem was dealt with in such a different way by the Captain. The first was warm, reassuring, understanding and entirely difficult to become cross with. The second was defensive, aggressive, reluctant to inform and, quite frankly condescending. None of these traits did much to help the fact that the passengers were already cross, as no- one bothered to tell us what was going on.

A small shift in focus can make such a huge difference in the customer experience. Summed up by my 9 year old daughter, as we waited on the plane home – “Our last Captain was a lot more reassuring". In this comment my daughter revealed a universal truth: that we are all communication experts and how people communicate with us determines how far we are willing to trust them.

Sign up to receive information on new courses, special offers, RADA student productions and events.

T: +44 (0)20 7908 4810
E: