Why What You Say Matters – Philosophy of Language
“Learn a second language and gain a second soul.”
Attributed to Charlemagne, this quote reflects a pervasive belief about the importance of language; the belief that language defines us. In the 1930s, two American linguists, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf popularized the hypothesis that the languages we speak may shape the ways we think. Since then, numerous studies have shown that our words, quite literally, determine our reality. Particularly, our personal reality and the reality we experience at work.
Positive Language Breeds Success
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, shows that the language we speak not only shapes the way we describe time but also affects our perception of its passage. Additionally, Harvard Business Review published an article concerned with research on the effect of positive and negative language on our neurochemistry.
Negative Language Creates Negative Consequences
“When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists.”
Isaac Oates, CEO of Justworks who holds a military background, noted that straightforward, action-oriented phrases relating to your company’s core values can be very motivational if you have a strong company culture.
“It’s through our words that we communicate our intentions. They are the main tools that we have for sharing our vision with our teams.”
Reflect Upon the Language Surrounding You
All things considered, the implications of these studies illuminate the need for a personal reflection on the language we use. Furthermore, it calls for a consideration of the role of language in our professional challenges and successes.
Perhaps, the best place to start stems from evaluating your company’s mission and value statements. After reviewing them, ask yourself how these value statements make you feel. Did you instantly relate to what you read, or did you find yourself apathetic or uncomfortable?
In the same way, an evaluation of how we communicate with our strategic partners and peers may provide valuable insight into those relationships.
Language Shapes our Interactions
The awareness of our language serves as a micro-component of Emotional Intelligence. Emotional Intelligence represents a rising soft skill, or power skill, in high demand among industry-leading organizations like Google. Furthermore, the age of blind production is over. Consequently, the digital age highlights the importance of HOW and WHY language shapes the reality of doing business.
How do you use language effectively in your personal life? At work? And where do you see room for personal improvement?
Simply becoming aware of how our language affects others will help increase Emotional Intelligence and improve communication with everyone around us.