The Gift of Language

Me with coffee

You know what I find absolutely fascinating?

Words.

The most used and analyzed vehicle to describe our experience of being alive.

The vehicle that paints a picture of how we experience ourselves, the world, and others beyond us.

Even more fascinating to me is the way with which our words become our creations.

What I mean by that is how our chosen words reflect our inner mental dialogue — even though, often, the chosen words don’t exactly articulate what we meant to say.

Have you ever said something to a friend, colleague, or client, and felt completely misunderstood?

It’s a funny fact of life and language that speaking the accurate meaning from our minds to our mouths is often not accurate. Then layer upon that the meaning derived of our words from the person listening to what is being said.

There’s a lot of space for error in understanding. Fascinating isn’t it?

One of my favorite books, “Listening Well: The Art of Empathetic Understanding” is exceptional in showing us the ways with which we communicate that causes confusion, feeling unheard, unseen, and misunderstood.

What’s most interesting is the way the book teaches how to listen and communicate in a way that helps the speaker better understand what they were attempting to say or even to better understand something in their life that they were not privy to prior.

Rushed and assumptive communication can leave us feeling like our conversations equate to a stone that is skipping across a pond. Never truly landing and impacting our lives in a meaningful way.

This is fascinating to me because I have spent years assuming I know what people are thinking, meaning, and feeling.

Even in my profession, where I am paid to get to the core of someone’s words and meaning, there are times where I still find myself assuming “I know” — when the truth is, I don’t.

Maybe because I was rushing too quickly at the end of a scheduled meeting.

Maybe because the conversation I was having seemed familiar and so in my mind, the meaning was the same as usual (even if I never checked for the meaning previously)

I’m guilty of assuming “I know” what someone means after interpreting their words, tone, body language and my past experience with them.

I can assure you that the many times I have done that in the past — I have been inaccurate in that assessment when I would go back and check with that person.

Language and the use of it in a way to create our relationships, our careers, our health, our finances and beyond — most certainly is an art.

Today, as I sit in a café writing this — I had an opportunity to speak with Miranda, who made my coffee.

She was telling me about how school was over for the semester and now had more time to spend with her dog, Keanu (Like Keanu Reeves) and her art.

I invited myself to slow down and to become curious, because regardless of what is going on in my life, I wanted to be interested in Miranda’s experience of life.

Offering a statement of interest, “tell me more about the art you create” — I was able to learn more about a recent drawing of a fox that she showed me. It was exceptional work that she told me a bit about.

I could have stopped there, and yet — I wanted to know more. I was curious and offered a couple reflective statements.

“It looks like you put a lot of focused time and attention into your work. And it sounds like with school over you will be able to spend more time doing what you love.”

These two statements led to a glowing smile as she reflected upon all that she is inspired to bring to life through her art over the summer, and then sharing about dreams beyond college.

Her smile lit up the room as she connected with her aspirations and inspirations.

I could have assumed she was not interested in sharing with me, or that I was too busy to care and went on my way.

I’m glad I took the time to learn more about Miranda. Our conversation appeared to inspire her, and led to my inspiration of writing this, along with other work I am doing today.

Seeing her joy about life and what she was up to brought me back to inspiration about my own life. Her joy in that moment became a gift for me too.

What a gift language is.

(I did not have the chance to snap a photo with her before she left work for the day. I’m posting another picture from a few months ago in its place)

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