I hate when I’m talking to someone who is hard to understand and I have to say “what?” or ask them to repeat themselves a million times. I feel annoying and I don’t like to interrupt the flow of the conversation. This person is on a roll with their talking, something I rarely, if ever, experience, and who am I to stop them? I’ve come up with a simple jingle that helps get me out of these situations. You create your own tune as you chant- Be bold, Be chameleon gold, be mold(ed).
Being bold with a mumbly, quiet, fast talker, person with an accent or anyone who is difficult to understand requires you to really take charge. You have to be confident. When I think of boldness in the face of a dangerous, hard to understand situation, I think of my brother, Jake. There was this one time my brother and I were getting lunch from Popeye’s in North Carolina, since we had a connecting flight there. Despite suffering from nervous ordering disorder, my order went smoothly. Once it was Jake’s turn, however, his order of chicken strips became complicated. The woman getting his order was like, “Spicy or mild?” but she had a southern accent, so instead of “mild” she said “mahld”. Jake didn’t understand, so he was like, “what?” and the woman repeated what she said, still with an accent but now a bit annoyed. I tried to whisper to Jake what she was saying, because I understood it. But before I could, he was saying “mahld” exactly the same way as the woman. At first he said it quietly but then he said it again, much louder, so that the woman could hear him. I had to run away because I was laughing too hard. But this is the bold way to handle this situation. You just have to go for it. Who knows what would’ve happened if my brother just ordered that spicy chicken? Boldness pays off.
Be Chameleon Gold:
When I say chameleon gold, I don’t mean like a chameleon whose turned into a golden statue. I mean a chameleon who has won first prize with his or her ability to change. You want to be able to change your face multiple times as you converse with this person who is hard to understand. You want to appear happy, sad, surprised and frustrated simultaneously. I urge you to practice because this is a skill that is hard to master and if you aren’t proficient in your chameleon gold behavior you might just end up looking confused. And you are not confused; you are quick, you are alert, you are ready for change. You are a prized chameleon.
As a chameleon, you also want your words to be able to be interpreted in multiple ways. Use simple/unintelligible words such as. “ah” or “wah” or “no-ya” with a semi-questioning tone. These simple phrases are easy to say and can sound like yes and no. I also suggest you listen to that song ‘Karma Chameleon’ by Culture Club before embarking on your conversation with a person you know is hard to understand. This will really help you get into your chameleon character.
This is similar to chameleon gold in that you want to change your facial expressions multiple times, but also, you want to use the person you’re talking to for reference in order to mold your face and words in a way that’s appropriate for the conversation. Think of yourself as a piece of clay and the person you’re talking to as a skilled sculptor, beautifully transforming your words and expressions with her/ his own reactions. Say the person mumbles something and then is like, “Should I go?” You could begin to nod, but if the person looks confused at this and begins to shake her/his head, smile and if they look confused again, turn your smile into a frown in order to appear sad. To be molded you must be swift, receptive and have a face that is easily moldable. Note: If you have eyebrows that make you look constantly excited or angry, moldability might not be for you.
So, the next time you find yourself having a conversation with someone you don’t understand, sing to yourself, Be bold, be chameleon gold, be mold(ed) and although you may not know exactly what you conversed about with said person, you will get through it like the bold, prized chameleon or moldable piece of clay I know you are!