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Communication that fails

I would have written 30 by now, if only to realize my ambition to focus on my sagging profession dealing with people with a confused understanding of their own.  As an offshoot, I could not have written about the stupidest idea of celebrating July 10 each year without much fanfare.

It’s actually my birthday!   And this year’s July 10 came out the worst, as I was confronted with a difficult situation dealing with people at the helm with a hands-me-down position, supposedly intended for the more qualified people.   Having figuratively swollen heads, they seem to believe they are good at everything, forgetting to admit the fact that they, who were, to say the least, benefactors of the well-ingrained politics in the office, went up the corporate ladder as mere catapulted stooges.  Their catapultion to a higher rank is history — no more, no less!

The situation was that the presidential alter ego, a Sudanese, a self-proclaimed English grammarian in the Executive Office, butted in our conversation regarding a strongman convicted of five counts of murder and meted out a penalty of five jail terms of reclusion perpetua, and then followed up with me on our action on his request worded, thus:

      “Dear Mr. Xxxxxx,

       I need to prepared a salary certificate with a designation in Arabic.

       I am look forward to your quick action.



Without saying sorry to him, I told him I, in the absence of our secretary, didn’t prepare his salary certificate with a designation in Arabic, because it was my understanding that he was just informing my boss that he himself would prepare such a certificate.  Hearing us in a heated argument, my boss, a Saudi, came out of his office, approached me, and berated me allegedly for my blatant disrespect to the Sudanese, saying I should have prepared his request offhand.

I shivered in anger, as I wasn’t expecting that I would be facing a disparaging situation like this.  After a very short while, however, I came to a realization that I should not be affected that much and that I should not do it again.  I didn’t study psychology for naught.  I studied psychology because of a personal aim to know how brain and mind are functioning interrelatedly and how they should be treated as collocative partners in dictating a behavior that best suits a specific situation.  I am an avid fan of BF Skinner, whose psychological apocalypses and hypotheses for which he was popularly known, inevitably nurtured my sense of disbelief and disenchantment.  I can’t believe I now find myself being trapped in an environment where communication is trivialized by a dearth of protocol that guides us how and when to communicate or where conveyance of the message by a director/manager to his subordinates is through a manner (e.g., shouting) expected of unschooled people.

Colleagues talk too much more than they themselves can understand.  And that’s where communication problem starts.

In corpus linguistics, communication derives from the Latin word “communis”, which means “to share,” and involves a message and two persons — sender and receiver of a message.  It also involves the manner by which a message is sent and received, and the barrier that affects the conveyance of a message.  Communication fails when the sender does not understand his responsibility in having his message understood by the receiver the way it should be, in a manner acceptable to both and even with the presence of a barrier.

Premising on the etymological definition of communication, communication process does not demand that the sharing of a communicative commonality is made possible only between people of the same nationality.  To simply put it, you should not be a Filipino to understand the message of a Filipino nor should you be a Sudanese to understand the message of a Sudanese.  There are many Filipinos who cannot understand their fellow Filipinos when the latter speak.  The same can be said of Sudanese and other nationalities.  The case between me and a Sudanese is not about nationality.  It is beyond that.  It is even beyond individual idiosyncrasies and cultural diversities.  It is about semantics that go haywire.

His letter, though replete with grammatical errors, was not beyond my capacity to understand.  In whatever way it was to be understood, even without confirming with him the message he was trying to convey therein, it was to inform us to prepare for him a salary certificate with a designation in Arabic.

However, it created a communication problem, as he did not seem to be aware that it was written as if he were just informing us that he himself would prepare said certificate.

What was repulsive in the situation was, my boss did not bother to ask why I did not prepare what the boastful Sudanese had requested for.  Instead, he reacted as if I didn’t understand what I was doing.  It’s so disheartening to know I have a boss who talks but does not communicate.  Perhaps, my boss forgot to know that in communication, clarification is a must.  It is technically what we call as feedback.  Being a third party to a communication that failed, he should have been a bridge through which my message could be properly hammered across to a Sudanese who literally stamped my superego down.

To point out, barrier is always present in communication.  In Saudi Arabia, it is considered by many as cultural in nature.  I don’t agree to it.  It’s rather more of racial than cultural.  There’s in fact a growing stigma attached to Filipinos working here.  It starts with a belief that Filipinos have a lesser level of facility than theirs, especially in the use of English, our international language, in communication.  To which I absolutely don’t agree.

To prove my disagreement, you can find below phrases and sentences that my colleagues, including the one who, because of length of service, was promoted to a supervisory position, have usually been using when they speak or write.

      “Go head” instead of “Go ahead.”

     “I am afraiding” instead of “I am afraid.”

     “I am go” instead of “I am going”

     “We are please” instead of “We are pleased”

     “We look forward to hear” instead of “We look forward to hearing”

     “Tell to GM” instead of “Tell GM”

     “did not came” instead of “did not come”

     “capable to” instead of “capable of”

     “cannot be able to” instead of “is not able to”

     “did not received” instead of “did not receive”

I am about to give up working with these people who, despite their poor or lack of communication skills, have the gall to say Filipinos don’t know anything.

In the office, communication, therefore, fails because of them, not because of us working under them.  Our boss should know this.


About Danilo Tao-tuan Naraja

I am an expatriate based in Jubail, Saudi Arabia and work in the Admin and HR Division of an oil and gas company. I am an HR practitioner for more than a decade. I used to work for a Cebu-based local newspaper. I love to write human interest stories and started writing when I was still in high school.


2 thoughts on “Communication that fails

  1. Let’s drink for Common Understanding, even though some of us use commas and words inappropriate. I’ve noticed a long time ago – to much studies can easily build walls around you as the lack of them. Cheers… (AV)


    Posted by | February 5, 2013, 7:39 pm
  2. Ha! Good luck telling him. This communication issue crops up a ton for me, almost daily. Being American I’m a bit more versed in English than the Filipinos though, so I have this problem with everybody. But the difference between you and me is FAR less extreme than the cognitive difference between you guys and our illustrious overlords. It amuses (and infuriates) me how they treat you guys. You’re generally far smarter and more capable than any of the more ‘geographically desirable’ cultures, culturally and at work. I can say though that when I have a problem like this and require/ demand clarity of speech/ communication because what’s being conveyed isn’t making sense, the only time I get a fight (or recently get spoken down to like I’M misunderstanding english) is by filipinas. Culturally “lucky” to be American, the Arabs don’t try to argue with me. Overall you’re right about how they behave. It’s shameful how the least capable and ethical folks here hold such dominating sway and treat better cultures poorly.


    Posted by Anastasia | August 11, 2012, 4:07 am

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