While visiting the electronics department at Walmart recently, I passed by their display with smart devices. On this particular display the Google Home products were displayed. In our home we have the Amazon Echo device that answers to Alexa. The Google products answer to “OK Google”. The devices use similar technology to answer questions and operate smart devices in your home, but they come from completely different companies.
As I passed by the display a man and woman walked up to the devices and the man asked what they were. His wife told him they were “Alexas”. The problem was that they were Google Home devices. To show her expertise with something her husband had little knowledge about she repeats what she had seen advertised on television by saying to the device “Alexa”. Clearly it did not respond. She proceeded to say Alexa again. Still no response. To get it to work, she leans closer to the unit and repeats. By now she is getting frustrated both because she was attempting to impress her husband and she realizes she is in public. The next time she gets louder but still repeating “Alexa”. Finally she gets frustrated and just says it must not be working and walks away.
As I watched this, I thought about how often this happens to all of us in so many areas of our life, but especially in relationships. We are trying to communicate with other people and we wonder why we are not getting results. Maybe there are a few lessons we can learn from the lady calling Google Home “Alexa”.
Know Who You Are Talking To
It was a Google Home but all she saw was a small device with a speaker. Because she had most likely only seen Amazon commercials for the Echo, she assumed that all of them must answer to Alexa. She did not know there was a difference between devices and she proceeded under the assumption that they were all the same. This is an assumption we all make from time to time.
We assume all children are the same. All women or all men are the same. All bosses. All Republicans or Democrats. We just start talking to people and assuming they will respond because it worked on someone else or we have seen it work in other places. Everyone does not respond to the same motivation. Even people with similarities do not respond to the same words or actions. You have to be aware of who you are communicating with. Understand that communication is as much about what they hear as it is about what you say.
Use The Right Language
I am not sure whether these smart devices are always listening or not. There is a lot of conspiracy conversations about whether or not they are listening even when you have not addressed them. What I do know is that the device will not respond unless you use the right language. Google Home will not answer to Alexa.
Gary Chapman famously wrote a book called “The 5 Love Languages”. It talks about how we receive love based on our love language. One of the hurdles we have is that we usually also speak love in the language that we like to receive it. The problem with that is the person we are expressing love to may have a completely different love language. They may completely miss the message we are trying to send because we are talking in our own language. Understanding how other people receive communication best allows us to speak their language; even down to email, texts and phone calls. I have one child who would rather you call them while another would rather you text. It is all about the language they speak. If you want people to hear what you have to say, speak in the language they understand.
Louder Rarely Helps
I somewhat anticipated this is where the smart device incident would go. I had seen it happen too many times in too many different situations. She got closer to the device and she got louder. She assumed she was right but the problem was in the device. She did not change who she was talking to or what language she was using. She remained the same but just got more forceful. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this traveling internationally. People who cannot speak the language in a foreign country think that if they slow it down and get louder that suddenly a person who only speaks Russian is going to understand their loud English.
Most arguments and conflicts in relationships come because there is someone speaking the wrong language and they are not being understood so they think the solution is to get louder. What was intended to be communication turns into a conflict. Often we look back on these moments and wonder why something so simple escalated into something so big. It is usually because one person is trying to communicate something that the other person is not responding to, so we resort to getting closer and louder, which rarely helps anything.
Have you ever been frustrated communicating in a relationship? I have. Most of the time we walk away blaming the other person for not listening when all along we may not have taken the time to know who we were talking to or what language they spoke; we just get louder and both people get frustrated. Take time to learn who you are trying to communicate with and the language that they speak. It will make all of the difference in the world for both parties.