Updated: Mar 16
Looking back at my very hazy university days, apart from where to find the £1 pint and the best after hours take away for chips and wraps, there was one lesson that I have found useful for EVERYTHING. A golden nugget of information, put forward by Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
Vienna born, Wittgenstein developed his thinking around metaphysics, logic and language, focusing primarily on the latter and how language is used in society. He coined the phrase; ‘The limit of my language is the limit of my world’ This one small sentence truly resonated with me and hit me hard. Language has the power to create huge impact in both personal and professional life. Before this point I had never really thought about how to use language, and so my interpretation of Wittgenstein’s teachings expanded my mind, increased my awareness of communication and the affect it has on others.
Think about the last argument you were a part of. Perhaps with your spouse, your best friend or your family. Think about the words flying around at the time, have you ever said something and it’s been entirely misconstrued? Within every cultural and societal group there are what we call ‘language games’. Each game consists of rules we must follow in order for us to communicate and be understand. These rules are intrinsically taught to us from birth and words have multiple meanings that vary from tribe to tribe and between cultures. In order to be understood within our tribe and environment we must follow the rules. Trouble starts when we connect with others from different games and mismatch on their rules. Imagine a couple bickering, each partner is playing a completely different game with polar opposite language rules. A lack of understanding or acceptance that people communicate differently can cause chaos. ‘He is being a complete arse, he thinks I’m being a soft touch.’ ‘He told me to “man up and get on with it”. How could he be so insensitive?’
From the man’s perspective he is being helpful and constructive, perfectly acceptable language from his community. He is telling her to take stock and ownership of the problem and move on. However, she hears layers of insult; ‘Man Up?!’ – the connotations in this alone make the blood boil. ‘Get on with it?’ – Harsh and uncaring. Where is the support? The next thing you know, they are knee deep in a verbal slinging match, with both sides confused and hurt.
We see this too in business; there is no quicker way to create tension in a work place, other than stealing someone else’s lunch from the fridge or hiding the stapler, than a poorly worded email. What happens then if you’re whole business is online? Are you going to up all night tossing and turning for all the wrong reasons? Worrying over whether you’ve accidentally antagonised Mrs Jones and her start-up company ‘The Bees Knees’ over poor use of grammar and a misplaced apostrophe.
We must then take into consideration how people actually learn and absorb information. How does your audience learn? Are they taking in information on a visual, audio, kinaesthetic or mixed level? Are we playing by the same rules but not delivering the content in a way that it can actually be absorbed. Let us now add in the ‘safety systems’ of language, the moral code embedded in the rules of language, unique to each community. How we eat a certain way, dress a certain way and act a certain way; all of this is communication.
Through these ‘language games’ we begin to develop our vision of our own self-worth and pick our place in the world based upon the voice of the community, rather than what we actually believe. Conformity is the bedrock of society and the death toll of the soul.
When we take into account all the different and overwhelming ways we communicate it is easy to feel undervalued and unheard. And so when we are looking for a more open and accepting relationship with our spouses, family or friends. Or we are looking to sell more products, build a bigger client base or connect with a larger, more global audience, then take into consideration the following:
- Acknowledge that we are involved in different ‘language games’ and to be accepting and open to the rules of other peoples ‘games.
- Be kind - the rules of language have developed primarily for a positive reason, to allow people to fit and survive in their environment.
- Be aware of the different learning styles and how people absorb information. Learn how to change you language and interaction to fit your audience.
- Recognise that society comes with safety mechanisms to make you conform and thus keep you safe. It doesn’t mean it needs to be stifling the way you interact with yourself and others.
Be brave and face the really ingrained stuff. If you are looking to be more content, connected, bigger, brighter, more effective, heard and whole then you need to examine the way, the why and the how of your communication style. The limit of your language truly is the limit of your world’ and the sooner you accept, explore ad open yourself to this, this sooner you expand your horizons and can begin to truly #buildyourownfuture
copywrite support - FranklyBeth www.franklyb.com