Words, Language Matter


Does Language Define our Thoughts?

For as long as most of us can remember, there has been been the question about language and thought. Does our language define our thoughts?

Yes and no. And life is just like that. It’s not black and white, right and wrong, and yes or no. Life is full of shades of grey, and the full spectrum of colors for that matter.

Think about it this way, what if you speak more than one language? Are your thoughts limited to only the cross-over words, or are your thoughts exponentially expanded?

While language may not define how we think, it DOES define how we communicate and how we are understood. How can we convey the true thoughts without the right words? Do we then “settle” for the less right word, compromising the message?

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” ~Mark Twain

We’ve all struggled to find the right word to say what we mean, beyond what we call senior moments, or brain farts. We know there are times that the nuance of the right words makes all the difference. The problem arises when we don’t realize this matters most of the time.

Context, nuance, makes the difference, and there are definite times a good “ain’t” is far more expressive than “isn’t”, despite what your high school English teacher taught you. Each of us unconsciously assigns nuances to words, concepts, that seep into our communications, and in our interpreting the communications of others. Instead of searching for the proper words, seek the right ones, the ones that explain what you mean to your audience, even if it’s in dialect, a different language, or these days, an emoji.

We HEAR the same way, assigning these same nuances to words we hear, which can sometimes change the impact or meaning of the message being conveyed. Is a nationalist the same as a patriot? The definitions aside, the use and cultural acceptance of the words changes the impact entirely.

Keeping this in mind is important when you are communicating, and being communicated to. LISTEN to the cues, and understand the perspective. ASK for clarification and don’t make assumptions.

Everything in writing begins with language. Language begins with listening.” ~Jeanette Winterson

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