Tuesday, March 20, 2012

L is for Language

Language....do know what it means?
One definition suggests:
any set or system of such symbols as used in a more or less uniform fashion by a number of people, who are thus enabled to communicate intelligibly with one another
Which according to the above would lead us to believe LANGUAGE is a form of COMMUNICATION.  So what is communication?
the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs. 
So if I understand the definitions correctly, language enables communication which is what allows us the ability to share or pass along ideas.

As a baby we are born with no language skills and limited forms of communication, we grow into children and are taught how to express our needs/wants through verbal  requests which are rather direct and straightforward.  As we progress into young adulthood we learn the technique of manipulation, the art of  "speaking without being direct."  As adults, we refine this ability and hone our skills into an instrument with which we use at our discretion.  In the business world - this skill can make or break you.

I want to preface the following paragraphs by saying that I am NOT insinuating the business world is comprised of liars, manipulators or people set out to mislead you.  I am simply pointing out that we all know a "silver tongued devil" or two and even though we don't like to admit it, we have used our knowledge of this ability to our advantage at least once in our life.  The thing I find most fascinating in what I do each day is just how much language actually impacts the outcome.

See, in my world words are everything.  One word can have different terminology depending on what is being discussed - which is true of many languages.  A simple term like "customer" could mean a person I provide support to who simply has no impact on the information they are requesting, it could be a person I provide support to who is changing information for their customer (sometimes referred to as end user). it could be a developer or a manager who needs information based on the end result of a process.  The point I am making is that not only is a "customer" someone I support, but specifically a customer is a person who requires a different "type" of support with very different results, even if they asked the exact same question.

*This room* offers me the ability to observe  various levels of communication and I am often amazed at the inability to completely understand each other when so many words are being used to convey the same meaning.  Business processes that are affected by the use of ambiguous terms that look good on paper, but have very little impact or meaning to the person who is actually attempting to follow that process.  It reminds me a lot of a legal document - where they use 15 words to say something that could have been written in 5 and requires a degree to understand the meaning of the 15 word sentence.

I am not complaining - I LOVE to talk...I am merely making an observation on what I see today.  It reminds me of watching a play, I wonder what satirical retort will come in the next act....?

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