Communications – Part 2: What do you mean?

Good day everyone!

Last week I wrote a blog titled “Communication –  Part 1: It’s about our words”. Part 1 reflected on “choosing the right words”. Today, I’ll be exploring “Communication – Part 2: What do you mean?”

Part 2: What do you mean?

If you thought choosing the right words was tough, here my is my “ah ha” doosie. Imagine if the definitions of the words you choose are different from others. The english language might be the world’s most spoken language but, it is probably the most misunderstood language out there. Our problem is two-fold:

  1. We use adjectives (either directly or indirectly) in defining the meaning of words
  2. Our “slang” language tends to work its way into our mainstream dictionary.

Let me elaborate…

Problem #1: use of Adjectives (indirectly or directly)

For example, in the business world we often talk about “Strategy”. This is a word that has different meanings for everyone in the room — no matter what level of management you are in. Some people hear “strategy” and start directly or indirectly putting adjectives front of the word like “long term” or “short term.” Then, we get into the discussion about how long is “long term” and how short is “short term.” Some of us even define short term strategy as “tactical goals”.

Hmmmmm…. Confused yet?

Our English dictionary actually defines words using other words that are – apparently – more descriptive. When we define things differently, it can lead to “lack of connection”. How many times have we had conversations where both parties left the meeting thinking we have agreement on what we talked about, but a couple of hours/days/weeks later we realize we were talking about completely different things.

Here are a couple of other examples in the workplace and at home:

Strategy Are we talking about strategic approach? Long term or short term strategy? High level or detailed strategy? Does strategy encompasses only the “What” and “Why” questions or does it include “when, who, and how” questions. Can we agree to a strategy without knowing the “when, who, and how”? As you can see, this word can be very confusing to people.
Short term Does this mean < one month, < three months, or < than one year?
Long term Does this mean three years, five years, or ten years?
Change Management Is this a process that introduces change within an organization or simply a process to address changing the scope of a project and dealing with the associated cost and   timeline impacts. Are we talking about change “orders” or change “management”?
Project Management Is this a tool to deal with managing a desired outcome(s) according to PMI ( methodology or are we talking about implementation management — one of the 5 phases of project management?

Problem #2: “Slang” language going mainstream

Jacuzzi Are we talking about a hot tub or a brand name? Not all hot tubs are Jacuzzis, but all Jacuzzis are hot tubs.
“Google it” Last I checked, there is BING, YAHOO, AMAZON, etc. for search engines. Google is a branding GOD!
Bad You never know these days. Is bad good? Or is bad really bad?
“Double   double” This must be a Canadian thing. “Double double” refers to coffee with two creams and two sugars. In basketball, it means something totally different (

The list can go on and on. So what do we do? I’m no expert in this, but I know we need to keep trying harder to connect. The world around us might be a better place. Awareness is the FIRST step. Then, find ways to ensure that everyone is on the same page. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what word we choose and what our individual definition of the word is. All that matters is that the people you are connecting with have the SAME understanding of the words used.

This can happen quickly with some and can take a long time with others. There is no right or wrong here. Patience and persistence in “better connecting” is a journey we are all on. I hope that this insight provides some greater awareness towards your respective journey.

One final funny example:

Now, I’m not a bad golfer but, I’m not a PGA professional either. I rarely use the word FORE…. But when I do use it, it doesn’t mean look around and laugh at my bad (in this case really BAD – not good) shot. IT MEANS…. GET DOWN NOW, not in a few seconds…. NOW!

Perhaps I should use the word “Incoming” instead of “Fore”. LOL

Thanks for listening and have a great day. If you have found this valuable, please share this blog with others!

Leadership Quote of the Month:

Leaders must be tough enough to fight,
tender enough to cry,
human enough to make mistakes,
humble enough to admit them,
strong enough to absorb the pain,
and resilient enough to bounce back and keep on moving.
Jesse Jackson


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