I am repeatedly reminded of the complexity of our language when I search for pictures to include with these dots. When I type in “train” I get pictures of both locomotives and weight lifters. “Fall” gives me autumn leaves and a person tripping on the sidewalk. “Print” accesses images of typewriters and plaid patterned materials.

I often don’t even think of all the meanings of one word, for example, “coach” that elicits pictures of a sports coach, executive coach/mentor, motorcoach bus and even Cinderella’s pumpkin coach. “Race” is visually represented by ethnicity, race cars, human runners and racing against the clock.

Using a photo search application is a good reminder of how important clarity is in communication. If typing in one simple noun generates so many different directions, think of the many ways a complex change process or new instructions may be interpreted by the listener – even if the recipient is a native English speaker.

You may think you said what you meant, but you may have also said something that means other things as well. Reinforcing your message with repetition, visuals, two-way feedback and context will go a long way in providing the understanding you can bank on (bank as in “count on/depend”, not a financial institution or shores along a river)!


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