Ignore the eyeball grabbing title, this is likely going to be my most thorough and emotional blog post yet. The story starts a few months ago. I had just moved to LA for a new job and it was my first day. I decided to take an UberPool that morning and serendipitously ran into a nice girl in the car. Unlike my many previous crappy Tinder dates, we hit it off smoothly. It was weird since she was from Korea and had only been living in America for a few months, meaning that she didn’t speak English proficiently at all. Since I am Chinese American, we ended up having no languages in common. Oh no! We are doomed, this will be nothing more than a fling .. right?
The rest of this blog will talk about the counterintuitive but loving relationship we had; it will also talk about the immense amount that I’ve learned about people and communication from this incredible experience. For the rest of the story, the girl in question will be referred to as “S”.
S not being able to speak English fluently was no problem, in fact, we both came to the conclusion that it largely helped our communication. You see, I normally speak very quickly, to the point of it being uncomforting. Think Jesse Eisenberg in basically every movie he’s in. With S, things are different. If I spoke English to her at the same pace that I normally spoke English, she’d obviously not be able to keep up; hence, for the first time in my life I found myself speaking reaaaalll slow. Not only did speaking slower make things more romantic, it allowed for us to express way more. Facial emotions! Wild hand gestures! Nonsensical body movements! Think long boring text filled email conversations from the 90s transformed into quick paced snapchat/facebook-esque emoji conversations. We found ourselves having way more fun, I personally haven’t had this much fun with previous girls I’ve dated in the past (all were native English speakers). Weird and unexpected right!?
Lack of a shared language meant much less friction between S and I, we were totally lighthearted together. In previous relationships with native English speaking girls we didn’t just bullshit small talk because we were taking our language for granted – it was worse: we aimlessly scrutinized each-others conversations more, this led to more bickering and shared stress.
Now for some boring and well-known evidence to back my analogy up:
“93% of all daily communication is nonverbal” – Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). Subtracting the 7% for actual vocal content leaves one with the 93% statistic.
Before S, this statistic was interesting but ultimately impractical. Now I consider communication, and especially non-verbal communication, a pillar of life and something I want to relentlessly learn more about. We see the power and influence of nonverbal communication everywhere: from everyday relationships to the impenetrable world of corporate/govt politics.
Doubters may ask: “But what about when you and S need to talk about really sophisticated things, you can’t possibly get away with just using hand-motions and body language?”. Yes, that is to some degree correct, but in retrospect those jargon-heavy conversations come up quite rarely compared to how often light hearted conversations come up. And when they do, we would just use Google Translate! Heck, I even learned a lot of Korean and her English has been tremendously improving.
The title and a lot of the opinions in this story are meant to be light-hearted – don’t take me too seriously. BUT, if you are a guy (or girl!) who happens to be single and suspicious of some plausible relationship just because of language or cultural barriers, please learn from my story and be optimistic. Also, don’t interpret this as me saying that dating foreign people is better, that would be ridiculous!
Thanks for reading! This one was a lot more personal and hard to publish.
Until next time, Lucas