How Relative is Language?

I was in the airport waiting for my flight to board yesterday when I came across a father and son that were eating in a terminal restaurant.  While the father was reading the daily newspaper, the young boy was blowing impressively loud bubbles into his fountain soda.
Clearly referencing his fine-tuned parental patience, the man ignored the noise and went back to his paper.  But eventually, the man grew more and more agitated until he erupted, “Put it down!”  Startled, the boy obeyed.  “Knock it off!” the father followed sternly.  Once again, the boy obeys his father…swinging at his soda and knocking it off the table to the restaurant floor

Biting my cheeks to suppress laughter, it dawned on me that this is extremely relevant to obtaining – and flourishing in – a job.  Language is relative.  A word may have a very specific definition in your world, but could mean something completely different to your boss, coworker or the manager interviewing you.

Consider the very term “soda.”  If you’re from the East or West Coast, you call it soda.  But if you’re one of our friendly neighbors in the Mid-West, you most likely call it “pop” – and we’re from the same country!  Consider the impact this could make when a crucial phrase or important conversation is on the line.

The object of communication is not to forcefully impart our perspective on others.  It is to more effectively help someone understand what you are trying to say.  To do so, you must enter their world and speak their language.

I’ve seen plenty of interviews, projects, meetings, careers and opportunities spoiled because of poor communication.  Becoming a master communicator is a quest of a lifetime, but being aware of the fact that language is relative is a tremendous step in the right direction to making communication work for – not against – you.  And, it will do wonders for your job search, career and personal life in

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