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My wife works as a graphic designer. English is a second language for her. She speaks and reads English pretty well but sometimes gets lost in the nuances and cultural references that are second nature to fluent, lifelong native speakers.

In her job, she often has to explain and/or defend her ideas and decisions to critical and nitpicky people up and down the org chart. Some folks are easier to deal with than others but she often has difficulty with strong personalities and headstrong folks who love to debate and argue. In dealing with these people and in group meetings or decision-making to get consensus, she often finds herself giving in and getting rolled over by headstrong and opinionated personalities and unable to effectively defend her ideas or get her perspective across especially if she disagrees with them.

This has resulted in her losing self-esteem and feeling as if she is not respected by her colleagues. Engaging effectively with in-house or external clients, of course, is a must for graphic or other type of designer. I imagine that until she deals effectively with this issue, that she will continue to experience dissatisfaction and not feel respected no matter what job she has.

I’ve urged her in the past to take English language classes or even try public speaking clubs like Toastmasters. I have a feeling that is not what she needs. But I am stumped as far as what resources graphic and other designers can tap into to improve their communication skills in having effective conversations and interactions with clients and colleagues.

NOTE: My wife and I are raising a seven year old. That means funds, time and opportunity for quiet reflection and alone time are in short supply. But we do live in the Washington DC Metro area so I imagine there might be plenty of resources we might have access to and don’t even know about. We just need to be pointed to the right direction.

One idea I have is perhaps she can get a mentorship relationship with a more senior designer who is very strong in the area she would like to improve upon. But how do designers find mentors?

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English language classes would surely help build confidence in being able to express oneself more efficiently, but perhaps it's not the main issue here. Even native English speakers can have problems dealing with headstrong, opinionated, or nitpicky people. What about an assertiveness training course? Lynda(dot)com has a video course available called "Learning to be Assertive".

I have no affiliation with lynda(dot)com.

  • Thank you! I think you got to the crux of the matter which is assertiveness – libarts Oct 12 '17 at 12:41

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