Changing the way we talk

This article will take a close look at how we learn communicate. It begins with the origins of making sense of information and moves on to examine how we might be able to communicate more effectively.

Language & meaning

The number of words in the English language:


When new babies are born they have a lot of catching up to do.

Throughout early childhood development kids try to establish a connection between words and meaning. In short, they’re learning to communicate. At home, my own kids are tracking every conversation — and every single word. Trying to identify patterns and assign meaning to what must be countless new ideas. Sentence structure and consistency seem critical to help guide them through the maze that is the English language.

The ball was kicked by the boy

Misinterpretation is frequent as they often assume a sentence to be structured in what they perceive as the simplest form. To state “the ball was kicked by the boy” is more often interpreted as the ball was kicking the boy. Clearly, this was not the intended message. My intended message was that the boy was kicking the ball and not the other way around.

Lesson to learn: Communicate with clarity

There’s a great lesson to be learned from childhood communication development: Clear communication is crucial to avoid misinterpretation. Clearer sentences are often structured in order of ascending hierarchy in order to accentuate the intended message. This is known as structuring a sentence in an active form. Changing the sentence structure by swapping the active and passive nouns improves message clarity.

“The boy kicks the ball” vs “The ball was kicked by the boy

The bigger picture is of course that communication can span more than a single sentence and transpire in a great number of mediums. Today, through a technological evolution there is a vast number of mediums. Many of these new and exciting forums of communication would have been considered science fiction only a few years ago. We need to think about the core message now more than ever as it must pass through these new layers of obscurity. What is it exactly they we’re intending to communicate? Does theoretical abstraction help or hinder? What is even the point of this abstract paragraph?

Be active in communication

Listen, Reflect & Aspire — to change.

Changing the way we talk is actually less about the words and more about the message. Critical thought and reflection are tools we can utilise to improve the accuracy of this intention. The result should be an aspiration to communicate with clarity. Something that is much easier to say than do. In practice, it’s much harder to communicate simply than with complex arcs of elaborate adjectives and narratives.

Strive for simplicity

Total communication is unattainable.

Simplicity is key to successful communication. It’s not to say simplicity will guarantee interpretation. But at the very least, it should be possible to communicate a core message — a single sentence. One single frame of reference that may be utilised as frame to further the conversation in any particular direction.

Selling more product

Effective communication is especially important in business. The model of consumerism depends on it. Selling a product effectively depends on the intended sales message being interpreted and accepted as a proposition. Unfortunately, the acceptance part of the message is often the first component to fail. Too often the message is placed into a form which is perceived as contrived and inevitably insincere to the product. Or worse, the message is unclear and the idea of a product behind the message is lost in translation

Kick the ball and stop the ball kicking the boy.
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