“Ahoy, me hearties!” Communicating with Pirates

While not likely on your official work calendar, September 19th is “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” so let’s get ready to celebrate!  The holiday is whimsical and informal, celebrating a positive pop-culture vision of pirates and their unique language conventions and practices.

The holiday also reminds us that to get our message heard, it is important to communicate in ways that people will most relate to.  “Ahoy, me hearties” communicates “Hello, I am one of you!”  This kind of connection is important in real life as well.

Think about the pirates in your life— people who come from different backgrounds and use different conversational styles or conventions.  Here are some tips for communicating with them more effectively.

  • Tailor Your Communications. Modifying our behavior to meet people where they are helps our message be heard. We have one southern colleague who has trained himself to speak formally, because he generally works for conservative business types. When encountering groups from more casual organizations though, he easily turns to his slower southern approach, setting his audience at ease too.
  • Know Yourself. When you encounter new people, are you more likely to be welcoming or wary?  Some of us are a little too trusting, and some of us naturally prepare to be attacked. Knowing yourself will help you guard against coming across as being overly open or defensive.
  • Assess the Motive. What does the other person or group likely need from your conversation?  Are they about to board your ship to seek treasure? Or do they just need some directions?  Anticipating a range of needs before the conversation will help you work through alternatives in advance.
  • Paint a Picture. Many people respond well to stories.  Instead of stating what someone should do and why, tell a story about someone who took the action and how it helped them.  Stories are great for connecting with people.

Sometimes, the best and most authentic communication is when you let your inner pirate out – to connect with other pirates and accomplish shared goals.