Have you ever had the experience of talking to someone and realizing they’re not ‘getting’ what you’re saying? I’m not talking about being a tourist in a country where you don’t speak the native tongue. I’m talking about explaining something in a work environment and seeing the look on the other person’s face that seems to be saying, “Yeah… I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It’s an odd and frustrating feeling. How does that happen? You’re both speaking English (or Spanish, or Hindi, etc.), aren’t you? It may be that you’re just not speaking their ‘perceptual language.’ This Fast Company article identifies 6 different ‘perceptual languages’ that you might want to keep an eye out for.


I’ll share a little bit of my experience in not feeling like people are ‘getting’ me. I tend to express myself naturally in terms of how things make me feel. I guess I’m just wired that way. I often start sentences with “It frustrates me when…” and “I feel it works well when…” And even when I ask questions, my instinct is to find out how others ‘feel’ about something. Well, I’ve learned that asking some people how they feel can elicit a non-reaction that reminds me of an old-school TV robot going around in circles saying “Does not compute. Does not compute.” 


The people who react that way to me clearly don’t experience life in the terms I’m using, and I’m essentially asking them to speak a language that—although natural to me—feels foreign and incomprehensible to them.


So what should you do to communicate more effectively and efficiently with people who aren’t ‘getting’ you? On my end, I do my best to speak their language—whatever I understand it to be. I’ve watched myself stop mid-sentence, if I’m getting the sense that I didn’t start out speaking their language, to change my question from “How do you feel about _____?” to “What do you think about _____?” or “What’s your experience been with _____?” .


If you work with someone who’d probably understand you better if you spoke their ‘language,’ I encourage you to make the conscious effort to identify what that language is and speak it. You’ll get far better results when they ‘get’ what you’re saying.



Guillermo Villar is principal coach with Cambio Coaching. He helps high-achieving individuals and teams communicate with intention to get the business results they want.