Since this is against conventional wisdom, allow yourself to take a journey with me.
Consider the word “loser”. Is that a negative or positive word?
In the context of sports, it can be argued that it is a positive word or neutral. In contrast, if a stranger calls you a ‘loser’, you probably won’t have a positive reaction.
Context is a necessary characteristic of communication…so far so good?
Now, consider these phrases:
- If you keep hanging out with 9 losers, soon enough you’ll be the 10th.
- Tell me thy company, and I will tell thee who thou art. – Miguel Cervantes
- Birds of a feather, flock together.
Personally, I consider these 3 phrases to have the same meaning. But you may have a different opinion.
- What words did you focus on?
- How does the meaning change if I’m the one saying the first one?
- What emotions did the word “loser” evoke in you?
- What would change if I were saying this phrases face to face?
- Does the meaning change depending on the person who is using the phrase?
Here’s where the lesson comes into play.
Who’s the common denominator in all the scenarios above? Do the phrases really changed in meaning or was it more the story you told yourself depending on the situation?
Words are words. They have their objective meaning. And yet, our B.S. (belief system), experiences, and moods are what really count when we are “communicating” with someone.
Intent comes from the giver; meaning, from the receiver.
In the end, communication happens inside each individual’s head. In order for communication to be effective, each party involved has to actively search for common ground and be willing to accept a new paradigm in their mental models of the universe.
Communication is really two or more one-way streets that decide to cross paths and form a common highway.
In the words of Hyrum W. Smith: “whether your beliefs are backed by strong scientific evidence, grow out of your values, or are completely subjective doesn’t change the fact that because we believe them to be true, we will act as if they are true.”