“Our words are so limiting!” said a wise man. “There are no words to describe this feeling of love …” he continued. Yet the phrase is a beautiful set of words that represent the immensity of his experience of love.
Words are not limiting.
In this post, I share some perspective as to why I stress communication and language so heavily when it comes to understanding our experience of life, and creating the experiences we want in life. And our language is a vehicle for that. It is hard for anyone to truly conceive what a world void of language would be like.
Communication is an ancient art-form that is readily accessible for our use right now–though it often goes unseen and ignored. After all, if our communication can be used to influence other peoples’ behaviors (e.g. sales, persuasion, debating etc.), why can’t we use it to influence our own behavior and results?
To communicate is to create. To create is to communicate. They are inseparable.
When I was earning money as a copywriter, I helped clients write targeted ads, communicate their brand, or articulate the characteristics of their client profile. What was peculiar, was that time and time again, they would start getting more of their target customers before they even released the ad publicly or launched their website.
Basically, what they communicated clearly, is what they got back. But it got even better. As they read the piece of copy, they would tell me “Oh my gosh! It’s so clear. I feel so clear about it right now.” Their confidence in self and business would increase.
Years down the track, I have continued to help my clients clarify their communication. Clarity in communication is the foundation for having what we want in life. The clearer the communication, the faster and more accurate the desired feedback.
Simple example …
If you tell a shop-keeper, “I want some apples.” He would have to ask you a few questions before he can help you, such as:
- The green ones, or the red ones?
- How many apples would you like?
This would require to and fro-ing. But if you tell him, “I want 2kg of red apples.”–you’ll get what you want faster. This same principle applies in our personal lives.
Answer This ONE Question and It’ll Change Your Life
“What would you like?” It’s such a simple, obvious question, that we often miss how profound it is. But just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s an easy question to answer.
Let’s put it in context of a daily activity we all engage in such as going out for lunch. Perhaps you can relate to this (or know someone who can) …
So there you are, feeling hungry, and surrounded by shops. You might ask yourself, “Hmm … what do I want to eat?” As you do so, your eyes are drawn to something greasy with a side of hot chips. But before you reach to make your purchase, you might suddenly find yourself bombarded with a number of other considerations;
- “If I eat that, will it make me fat?”
- “Can I afford it?”
- “Will that make me fall asleep at my desk later?”
- “What will people think of me?”
Your physique, finances, social perceptions, and professional performance can all come into play. Now, eventually, you will come to a decision before you starve to death. Sure. But it just shows that the decision making process can be a lot more involved.
Our responses to the question “What would you like?” are often distorted by;
- What we think we deserve or can have.
- What people would think or deem as acceptable.
And we don’t only do this in deciding what we want to eat, but we do it in deciding what we want for our lives as whole—personally, interpersonally, and professionally. One question leads to a myriad of other questions that we must consider.
Problem is, if what you say you want, isn’t actually what you want, you are destined not get it. It’s like ordering a coffee. Unless you specific you want a flat white, you might find yourself stuck with long black.
I can’t tell you how many of my personal clients tell me things like, “I want to quit my job!” or “I want to lose weight!”—only to find that what they truly wanted was the experience of greater satisfaction and significance in life. And that it didn’t necessarily mean quitting their job, or losing weight.
So we must inquire using a proper frame or sequence, so you can clarify what you want. Here is a set of questions you can use to do exactly that:
- What would you like?
- What will having that do for you?
- How will you know when you have it? (Supplementary question: What can you see, smell, taste, or hear?)
- When, where, and with whom do you want it?
“The simplest questions are the most profound.”—Richard Bach
Communication Directs Your Attention
All life is a communication. From how we communicate to ourselves, with others and every aspect of Life. These acts govern the way we perceive, receive and act upon information.
Give you a simple example …
So here you are reading this post. As these words unfold before you, I can’t help but wonder what you are dealing with in life. Right in this moment. And if any, what experience you might be longing to have more of, if you could.
Where did your attention go? What did it feel like as you processed the above paragraph? What energetic state did you enter?
In this particular instance, the paragraph I used was vague enough that you would fill in the gaps with the details of your own life. This work is attributed mostly to Milton Erickson, the father of tranformational hypnosis. By being sufficiently vague, this style of communication works with you to develop your own meaning, rather than ramming a fully defined instruction down your throat.
It is a form of suggestion. Energetically, it is like creating channels for energy to flow, just like the meridians of our body. For many, they will start thinking of positive experiences they want in life. Or the possibility of experiencing less of what they don’t want. It’ll shift their emotional state and physiology (e.g. breathing).
Language directs your attention and hence energies.
On a more abstract level, our language creates a structure to capture a variety of emotions (energies in motion). Through our language, we can create an infinite number of emotional experiences. The best way to do this is to craft a story or a metaphor. A metaphor or a story is a indirect way to communicate to someone by having them fill the gap as to what it means.
Let’s take a look at an example …
Once upon a time, a man came face to face with a boulder that was blocking his path. He was a thin man, but a capable man. He wanted to find a way through the boulder so he could get to his destination. He grabbed his pick axe, and started to chip away at it day after day. Till finally, the entire boulder was no longer in his way. As he continued, he couldn’t help but notice how much easier it was to walk. To breathe. His gained muscle weight, and his back no longer ached from walking hours on end…
Everyone will draw their conclusion as to what this metaphor means.For some, it might mean being grateful for the strength that challenges help people build. For others, they might decide that strength is attained by repeating simple actions for a consistent period of time. Another person might be more generic and decide it means you will always be given the challenges needed to continue your journey.
That’s despite the point.
Metaphors resonate with some, are rejected by others, and in some very artful ways–can be injected into another.
When we stitch together a story or a metaphor–we are taking a particular information structure, and having it interact with the unconscious and conscious aspects of the reader’s consciousness–throughout all space and time.
And the true magic of it? We fill in the gaps ourselves. The reader or recipient does all the work for themsleves! The words become the facilitators.
That’s why stories and anything that has a form of story in it (movies, cartoons, comic books) have an immense gravity to them. Because part of what brings them to life, is us, the viewer. It is the way we are compelled to relate our own lives to the story.
Now here’s the even more beautiful part. You can morph the metaphor if it sticks and you don’t like it. You can modify its information structure. Let’s take the same metaphor and do exactly that. It will change the emotional experience and the conclusions people draw from the story. Have a read …
Once upon a time, a man came face to face with a boulder that was blocking his path. He was a thin man, but a capable man. He wanted to find a way through the boulder so he could continue his journey. He grabbed his pick axe, and started to chip away at it day after day. Till finally, the entire boulder was no longer in his way. As he continued, he couldn’t help but notice how much easier it was to walk. To breathe. His gained muscle weight, and his back no longer ached from walking hours on end.
When he reached his destination 20km later, he cheered! He had finally found the beautiful forest he had searched for all his life. But an old man came up to him and asked, “What are you cheering about? There is nothing to cheer about! Didn’t you come to see the diamond nest perched at the top of the highest tree?”
The man responded, “yes.” The old man shook his head. “That’s all well son. But that’s no longer possible. The boulder 20km back, provided us all the perfect view of this wonder for centures. But in the recent day, it mysteriously disappeared …”
Notice what your experience was of this modified version? Notice what different conclusions can be drawn. This is going to be very important as we discuss the topic of getting the change you want in life.
So in the coming posts, and where appropriate–I will pepper in to the best of my knowledge, different languaging and story techniques that can be useful as you create your premiere artwork called being human. Thank you so much for following the threads!
I leave you with a beautiful quote from a wise and kind gentleman.
“If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor.” – Joseph Campbell
And I invite you to join me at the next post in this series, The Art of Personal Change V; Conversing With Collapsed Conditions.