Bethan Blakeley discusses the importance of understanding others, not just hearing them.

For those of you that didn’t know, I spent some time in Sri Lanka and the Maldives recently on my honeymoon. For those of you that did know, yes, I just mentioned it again.

To tour Sri Lanka we had a personal driver; a brilliant, knowledgable, hilarious local with quite stilted English. Add some hearing problems into the mix for me thanks to an ear infection, and we had ourselves some very poor communication skills.

At first I didn’t think my ‘smile and nod’ routine was an issue, until I pulled it out when he was trying to tell me the following day’s plan. ‘Smile-and-nod, I’ll find out tomorrow, it’ll be fine…’ The next day, I find myself out of bed at 5.30am, and on quite a difficult 7 mile hike – in flip flops and a flimsy summer dress. It doesn’t take a genius to know that it wasn’t long until I ended up face first in a muddy swamp.

Once my other half had managed to control her hysterics (who says romance is dead), I decided I was going to do my best to understand everything that was going on from that point forwards.

Yes, it meant conversation was harder. It took us 20 minutes to work out when both countries’ school holidays were. But it was worth it. My communication with our driver had the same principle as communication I have with anyone else.

Ask the hard questions, have the tough conversations, question everything, try to understand it all. I can’t say it was the only reason, but let’s just say I managed to stay swamp free after that.