If you’ve read the screed more than once or twice you know that in a past life I was an English teacher. I’ve always loved words and so I read this post about 11 Words That Don’t Mean What They Sound Like with great interest. Words such as “crapulous” and “nugatory” aren’t a part of my regular vocabulary although a couple of the words on the list are. Whether you use them or not, there is a good business point to be made by them.
If you’re expecting me to say “words matter,” you’re wrong. It’s the meaning of the words that matter, which is something that the piece makes clear. Sometimes we hear words and don’t understand what’s being said. Oh sure, we think we do, but that’s where the issues arise. It’s not even as simple as not understanding the definitions of the words as this article shows. It’s getting the meaning along with the definition.
Part of that can be body language, which is why I’m a believer of in-person discussions whenever possible. It’s easy in an age of instant communication to just send a quick email but email lacks nuance. Part of it can be tone. How many times has a significant other said “I’m fine” to you when their tone tells you they’re anything but fine? That’s all part of meaning.
One thing I’ve learned from the dozens of lawyers with whom I’ve worked over the years is the need for precision in language. Knowing the real meaning of every word can be critical to business success and can prevent misunderstandings down the road. I’ll sometimes ask people with whom I’m discussing business issues to state them in another way. It gets to the true meaning behind the words since words (to use one from the article) are considered fungible by many folks. Often, they’re not.
Have you ever run into a situation where the words someone uses have meant something other than how you understood them? Tell me.