Your Choice of Words Matters

Communication is the bridge between one’s mind and another. Words are used to convey one’s message. Sometimes, however, one might use words that he or she doesn’t mean or the receiver interprets one’s message differently than intended by the transmitter (the one who is speaking).

Choosing the right words is important to effectively deliver your message, describing something, or to avoid hostilities (or provoke them). A potential problem arises when choosing the right words: How can you choose the right one when there is none? Or there are, but all words doesn’t match your intended meaning? Here is where vocabulary comes in handy. The bigger your arena of words, the easier it will be for you to convey your message in an easy and simple way. 

For instance, a man doesn’t know the meaning of ‘anxious’. So whenever he wants to say that he is anxious, he will say something like “I feel scared”, “I feel so bad about the event tomorrow” or even worse, “What’s happening to me?”. All those statements may make the receiver understand differently than the meaning intended. The receiver might help him, but differently than how he treats anxious people.

“Precision (of the intended meaning) is key here.”

Especially in teamwork and military, you need to think of the right word fast to make your teammate able to comprehend and execute orders correctly. Vocabulary also helps greatly in clarifying your flow of thoughts which is essential for thinking critically. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Precision (of the intended meaning) is key here.

Another matter dealing with choosing the right words is the ‘natural’ or status quo of some words. I divide this matter in three:

  • Naturally sensitive words
  • Naturally sentimental words
  • Natural strength of words

The nature of different words may vary in different societies, regions, and even individuals.

Naturally sensitive words: I’m sure most of you know what this means. Some words are sensitive to a particular people or culture and must be avoided in speech. Otherwise, they will be provoked and more resilient towards the transmitter. For example, in Malaysia if I say “Apa hal (meaning ‘What’s up?’)” to someone, he will think that I am trying to pick up a fight with him. Instead I should greet by saying “Apa khabar?”, which also means ‘What’s up?’. They’re literally the same, but “Apa hal?” is usually used when someone gets angry.

Naturally sentimental words: The opposite of sensitive words. Sentimental words alleviate your message, not because of your message, but because you chose the right word. You can use this to your advantage, but requires you to study the people. The easiest example is the word ‘please’ and asking questions.

Natural strength of words: Some words are ‘naturally’ weak when compared to another word with the same meaning. Like trying to emphasise the importance of something, ‘essential’ and ‘critical’ is a much stronger word than ‘important’. The more frequent a word is used, the weaker is a word. Sometimes, it’s also how you arrange your words. Francis Bacon said “Knowledge is power”. To me, knowledge is much more than just ‘power’ (notice how often the word ‘powerful’ is used and how weak is this word). Knowledge is the thing that keeps human alive, if not, how can we innovate technologies and build things for them to live in? Knowledge is embedded in human nature. “Knowledge defines life”. That’s what I would say to greatly emphasise its importance.

Besides, facial expression, the length of speech, usage of analogies and examples, clarity,  intonation, and fonts all are factors that make your speech or writing valuable and influential.

“The less you say, the more your words will matter.” -Rae Carson

“Change your words, change your world.”

I seek guidance from God. Forgive me for any of my mistakes.

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