David Bowers, a local entrepreneur with multi-cultural communications experience, has noticed through various inter-religious
mediations that, due to poor word choice and personal bias, people don’t receive the intended message.
David Bowers, owner of Coffee Geek (USA), is a small business advocate and entrepreneur who has devoted his life to Inter-religious and intercultural mediation around the world. In mediating various disagreements he has noticed that opposing sides often argue the same point, simply using different vocabulary.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at
through my travels in my exposure to British English I've come across several English phrases that have caught me off guard for example my English friend in China laughter almost five minutes straight when I told them that I was free because the governor blew off our meeting when I could finally calm him down he explained to me in England blow-off means to pass gas you can understand how a mental image of a dignified Chinese governor kesling a meeting due to gas problems would be slightly humorous sure all right one morning while I was teaching higher level English to foreign students in Washington DC I asked her student why his girlfriend wasn't in the mourning period he explained to me well I knocked her up but she decided to stay in bed you knocked her up I said well yeah I woke her up and I guess she wasn't feeling well that's when I realized that his prior lessons in England had taught him that the phrase knocked up could also mean to wake up this rings us to our final British English phrase off-color understandably a few of these phrases can come across tad off color here in the US but just like off-color which only means up not feeling too well a these English phrases can get lost in translation even when you care you share a common language the objective of communication is a transmission of an intended message to an intended audience I firmly believe in most cases the onus of message interpretation falls on the transmitter of a message think on this in communication the only thing you have control over is how you convey a message through the analysis of subcultures I believe one can effectively decrypt evaluate and speak to the heart languages within one's target audience with the ultimate objective being comprehension and not just transmission a person's identity consists of multiple cultures often these cultures consists of one or two global such as Western Middle Eastern African one or two national like american german and chinese one or two regional like southern northern Midwestern and a myriad of subcultures such as blue collar white collar and even down to an individual's personality type these cultural identities can act as linguistic filters that alter how people receive your transmitted messages so what beverage do you think of when you hear the word cappuccino do you think of a robust strong dark coffee with small amount of frothy milk and a slightly bitter aftertaste served an eight ounce ceramic cup on a small saucer or do you think of a Styrofoam cup full of that stuff at the gas station cappuccino machine it tastes like a hot choc 'mill shake I'm from the west coast I serve coffee for a living when I began my business here in Augusta the first customers who asked for a cappuccino were quite surprised when they received a true Italian cappuccino I quickly discovered that there is a definition of cappuccino that is unique to the south realizing this I removed it from the menu and now always ask for a clarification if customer orders 1 by better understanding my local customer base I'm now able to market my products more effectively may be more familiar example for you would be if any of you have ordered tea outside of the south right sweet tea and iced tea are not the same in most of the u.s. ok now on a more serious note while traveling in the Middle East and my experiences with Arabs in the United States I've come across too profound critical misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims it might surprise you to know that many Muslims around the world believe that Christians have some similar beliefs to the ancient polytheistic Greek religions one day I was having a conversation with one of my Muslim friends who was surprised that I as a Christian did not believe that God came down on earth and had sexual relations with Mary in order to create Jesus in my experience Muslims they hear that Jesus is God's only begotten Son most of them do not have the biblical or even cultural background to interpret that phrase in any other way than how it appears my friend put it to me this way doubt that's David Arabic we as Muslims believe that a law was not born nor does he have children this belief that Christians have does not honor hola and it makes Jesus look like a Greek demigod this is why many of us view Christians as polytheists thankfully this friend had a good grasp on Western culture and was able to explain his perceptions to me but from this interaction and several others like it I've learned that if I desire to explain my beliefs about Jesus to a Muslim I need to start on common ground and use vocabulary that can be culturally understood like calling Jesus a prophet or describing Jesus as the image ambassador and perfect representative of God once Althea inter-religious exchange is established parties can then discuss topics that are more difficult but this type of misunderstanding isn't unique to just Christians and Muslims sadly I found that many people make little effort to adapt their intended messages to reach people of other cultures you cannot always avoid misunderstandings and sometimes despite your best efforts p we'll hear a message that you did not intend to present however by being intentional about the message that you transmit and aware of the heart languages within your target audience you can eliminate many obvious miscommunications and this necessitates taking into consideration the less obvious nuances which requires you to observe and strive to understand those around you again you only have control over the message that you transmit and think on this there are many times in life when you only have one chance to transmit a vital message correctly so shouldn't you take the time and make the effort to do it right