Starting at Talk

March 20, 2019 Ariel Robinson 0 Comments

Linguistics is like physics. It takes something that we all inherently know about the world — language, gravity — and makes it a hundred times more complicated than it ever needed to be. If that works for you, you love it; if it doesn’t, you run away screaming.

The thing is, just like physicists understand daily phenomena at a deeper level and can therefore do more with them, linguists too can construct and deconstruct the world through language and have a deeper appreciation for its power.

It’s that appreciation, that understanding and that value, that we teach in our trainings so everyone can be more aware and intentional of what they’re communicating — and what they’re not.

We all convey far more information to each other than we realize, from the clothing that we wear and the way we angle our shoulders, to the words we use, even to the speed at which we use them. Many of these things are subconscious — we just talk how we talk — and therein lies the rub. Most of us aren’t actively thinking about the pace or pitch of our speech when we talk, but it turns out those elements convey more information than our actual words do — whether we intend them to or not.

For example, someone might say that he’s listening, but if he replies too quickly, the person that he’s talking with might not feel heard. Conflicting meanings behind what we say and how we say it can make people feel uneasy, even mistrusting, without our ever realizing it.

Different people have different expectations of conversational flow. These expectations come from the cultures in which we were raised, our education, where we’ve lived, and many other factors.

Misunderstandings often arise when people engage in conversation — that is, their relationship is happening in real time — and their individual expectations of how that conversation will work are different. And both are different from how the conversation actually goes.

In emotionally tense conversations, whether it’s the disclosure of an information security breach, or discussing bias in the workplace, people are even more likely to react with their gut to how we speak rather than what we say. That’s why many of our trainings are rooted in cognitive and linguistic sciences. When people understand how to convey information — how information is processed, stored, and recalled — they are better able to align what they’re not saying with what they are. We build trust, de-escalate tense situations, and are better able to listen for what each other is trying to say. We can separate the signal from the noise.

Not everyone can be a linguist, but everyone can benefit from linguistics. Contact us today to learn more about our tailored trainings on diversity and inclusion, leadership and trust, harassment, and incident response.

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