We all EXPERIENCE language differently – this may sound strange as we all communicate with the same words BUT do you ever notice that when you talk to someone they often interpret your message differently than you intended? This happens more often then we realize and it is all because of the EXPERIENCE of language.
When we learn the meaning of words, there is always a preconceived message that accompanies that word depending on our experience. Think of words like marriage, education and diet. People experience and react to these words very differently depending on who, when and how they were taught the context of these words. Let’s take money for example – there are generally two ways to think about money. The first is that money comes easily and if you need it, you’ll find it. The second is that money is the root of evil – there is never enough and it is a constant source of pain. The way you interpret the word MONEY, and your direct association to it is based on your experience of that word in the real world. Your intended meaning of the words you are speaking are obvious to you but not necessarily to the person you are communicating with. Having this awareness will make you more reflective and deliberate in the words you choose to communicate with, especially in business.
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When we speak, we are not only using words but their associated meanings that shape our message. This happens without our knowledge as we rarely stop to think about how we interpret language based on our experience with words. Once we are aware of this distinction, it can help to unpack words and realize that there are several meanings to everyday, ordinary speech.
Let’s take the word SUCCESS. In my early 20’s success meant wealth, status and climbing some sort of ladder. What I thought success would do for me is open doors and provide funds to have my then big 3 – 3 vacations, 6 figures and designer everything. As I was having a conversation with my than boyfriend we were discussing his definition of success which included his big 3 – happiness, helping others and working in the arts.
I was stunned.
His list didn’t include ANYTHING financial or material. NOTHING. This was the moment that I truly realized your experience of language shapes each persons meaning of language. Our experience of language was too far apart for us to ever be able to completely understand each other.
Years later, his experience and understanding of the word success still sticks with me. Now I seek to understand others experiences rather than assuming we are all coming from the same place.
Understanding your own experience with language and how you can identify miscommunication and be more flexible in your own explanations. It will make your communication infinitely more rewarding. The things you will learn will astound and (hopefully) delight you – it is like learning a whole new language!
Take inventory of your own experience with language when it comes to your important messages and ensure you are projecting the message you intended.
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