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Figure 1-11.—Stereotyping individuals is not consistent with the Navy’s expectations
Personnelman 3 & 2 - Military manual for government personnel administration
Amiable Runaround - 14214_29
problem, you can then gain additional information by asking  questions. The customer who has difficulty speaking English may also have trouble understanding it. When it is apparent   that   the   customer   is   having   difficulty understanding, you should speak more distinctly and, in most cases, more slowly. You can usually tell by the customer’s expression whether or not you are being understood. Speech impediments, such as stuttering or lisping, can  also  cause  misunderstanding.  In  cases  such  as these,  your  problem  will  be  understanding  the speaker’s words rather than the speaker’s choice of words. We have been speaking of language barriers as though they exist only on the part of the customer. This is not always the case. Language barriers also exist with customer service representatives. If you have a language barrier, your first step is to be aware of it. Your next step is to make a conscious effort either to eliminate it or to compensate for it. To compensate for a  language  problem,  try  to  speak  slowly  and  give  the listener  time  to  follow  and  interpret  what  you  are saying. Be sure to ask questions and encourage your customer to do the same. Some  speech  patterns  that  interfere  with understanding are not impediments but just habits. Some  of  these  speech  habits  are  slurred  pronunciation, running  words  together,  speaking  too  fast,  an exaggerated drawl or brogue, and profanity. Again, these  are  not  physical  impediments  or  intentional barriers; they are just habits. You should analyze your own speech patterns and determine whether or not you need to improve your manner of speaking. It is possible that  you  may  have  one  or  more  of  these  habits. Normally, we do not listen to our own speech, but you can  obtain  a  reasonably  accurate  sample  of  your speaking  voice  if  you  record  an  informal  conversation and then listen to it carefully. Speech habits are not too hard to change, but you must first be aware of the habits you need to change. Personal reactions were discussed in a previous section, but speech habits were not listed as a cause of an adverse reaction. In some instances, speech habits may  cause  negative  reactions.  You  may  show  an adverse  reaction  to  the  person  who  has  difficulty speaking or understanding English, and that person may  react  to  your  inability  to  communicate.  The person  with  a  language  or  speaking  problem  is frequently  sensitive  about  that  problem  and  will interpret any exaggerated manner of speaking on your part as an attempt to demean. But, as with other factors affecting  customer  relations,  your  positive  attitude  is the  most  effective  way  to  overcome  the  language barrier. The  use  of  words  reflecting  prejudice  and  bigotry is  a  major  roadblock  in  effective  communications, Prejudice  and  bigotry  stem  from  ignorance,  fear,  and superstitions  of  the  people  who  started  them,  and  their continued  use  today  reflects  the  same  characteristics in the users. It is acknowledged that everyone has prejudices of some kind. They are a part of our emotional character, but  they  are  preconceived  opinions—a  prejudgment  of a person—based  on  insufficient  evidence.  Prejudices are directly opposed to our constitutional concept of justice—a person is presumed innocent until judged guilty. It takes time and effort to root out prejudices, but the results are well worth it. In the meantime, make a constant, conscious effort not to use words that create resentment and anger. Remember that there is no room for prejudice and bigotry in our Navy. Individuals who fit  in  this  category  must  change  their  outlook  on  life. Otherwise,  they  will  continue  to  be  considered “dragging anchors.” The final barrier is most often set up by you, the PN, through the use of slang, technical terms, and acronyms that may confuse the customer. Although you  will  routinely  use  these  terms  and  acronyms among  your  co-workers,  your  co-workers  are  already familiar with this language. You should remember that these  words  or  expressions  are  not  appropriate  when your customers may not be familiar with them. If you must use technical terms, you must explain what they are as you refer to them in your conversation. Remember  that  customers  from  other  ratings  are not as well informed about your rating and work as you are. Therefore, you must remember to speak to your customers  in  terms  that  they  can  understand. Periodically ask the customer if he or she understands. If the customer does not understand, ask your customer to tell you what he or she does not understand and repeat yourself in simpler terms, if appropriate. RESPONDING IN KIND You  must  respond  to  the  moods  of  others appropriately. If the customer is friendly, you are more likely to be friendly. If the customer is angry, you may 1-18

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