The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Focusing on words

Words live in a context.

The context is larger than we can grasp.

There is always more to it than we can see or hear.

But the one we have is a good start, that is if we are willing to be curious.

If we go for an interpretation, we have to be ready to be wrong.

I was reminded of this simple truth in a conversation with a friend. He had asked me for feedback on a text he had written and I commented on some of the words he had been using. I’ll often do that when I want to be sure of the meaning. In this case, it was the use of “little” that had attracted my attention.

When writing one of the hardest tasks is to leave out the words we add if we want to “really” make sure we are understood. It is based on the anxiety that our message is too forceful or not forceful enough.

In the process communication model and transactional analysis, we’ll talk about drivers. A driver is a signifier that we are not at ease in a given situation, it is as if there was a condition to it or us being ok.

People will for example ask for a “little coffee” or a “little break” to make their request sound less demanding. Or they will talk about the “little guy” or the “little school” to feel superior.

But the same combination of words can also be the result of a harmless comparison, can be intended as a joke, or mean something else. In a conversation, we can gain an idea of it by listening to the tone of voice, and observing the posture, mimic and gesture the person uses.

In a written text we are left alone with our interpretation. We only have patterns in the text and our knowledge of the person, the brand, or our experience to help us grasp the meaning.



Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *