One Word Ahead of You
On college campuses, Communications majors have a reputation for being ditzy and lazy because, well, how hard could it be to communicate?
Communicating effectively is actually very difficult. In order to be an effective communicator, you need to have an expansive imagination. You must take into consideration all the possible ways that you could be misunderstood.
For example, if you ask your friend to meet you at a Dunkin’ Donuts in your town, make sure that only one Dunkin’ location exists. Your friend, who has a different frame of reference, may think you mean the other Dunkin’ Donuts, which is on the other side of town. Being an effective communicator means being considerate and conscientious.
You must be good at “reading” people: judging body language, paying attention to facial expressions, and listening very carefully. You need to actually care that the other person is receiving your message as you mean to communicate it.
You need to treat every word and gesture like it makes the difference between life or death – let’s face it, in some situations (emergency room, construction site, factory, etc.), your word can assuage or exacerbate* a life-threatening situation.
Communicating effectively means appreciating and mastering language. You should have an extensive vocabulary but know how to wield it wisely. You will rarely use “big” words. You will *always choose the word that most closely matches the idea or image in your mind.
Sometimes, you will have to compromise the accuracy of a word for the sake of making sure that the other person understands – perhaps his or her vocabulary isn’t as expansive as your own.
as·suage Verb /??sw?j/: Make (an unpleasant feeling) less intense
ex·ac·er·bate Verb /ig?zas?r?b?t/: Make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse
You need to consider the person or group of people that comprise your audience – cultural differences or language barriers may influence the way that you chose to convey your message. My favorite anecdote involves a car named the Chevy Nova. In Spanish, the phrase “no va” literally means “doesn’t go”.
Next time someone tells you that they are a writer or communicator, take them very seriously. Because, if they’re any good at what they do, they are taking you seriously, making sure you get the information you need and that your needs are understood.
(Photo by Andres Rueda)