Thursday, September 6, 2012

Leading With Abstracts

Having been on the road for the past few weeks across four countries, I have reminded myself constantly to pay dense attention to my use of language in teaching and instruction. Although business and conversational English is one of the widely spoken languages, it can be challenging for many with its abstract forms. When you travel on business, you learn to pay attention to how well your communication with others, go. You learn to engage with precision, accuracy and deliberateness.

Be mindful of when you use figures of speech. Abstract language relies on the deeper structure of language. A table is a piece of home furnish whereas ‘under the table’ or ‘table of content’ refer to different things entirely. Stick to concrete language and only migrate when the conversationalist shows higher competence in managing such language. When in doubt, ask them: ‘What do you understand by…?’ It tends to reveal the gaps in understanding of daily business language. Challenge their use of abstract language, such as ‘What do you mean by not pulling their weight?’ and ‘How do you define overloaded with work?’

Leadership Lessons: Beware of using abstract language, especially figure of speech. Be aware of the use of metaphors, analogies, proverbs and idioms. Non-native speakers may have difficult comprehending and understanding the nuance of language such as subtlety, innuendo and entendres. Question people on the use of their words if you, too, have difficulty comprehending or understanding.

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