Last week, Amanda Bucklow left a comment on my blog about a video that I discovered on another website.
I didn't do an exhaustive search of my followers and friends at various sites, but I am sad to say that I did not recognize Amanda's name when I got the comment. I have no idea how she found my blog.
So, I decided to take a look at her blog – The Mediation Times – to learn a bit about her. I immediately liked what I saw, and I started to look around a bit.
In the process of looking over her blog, I found one of Amanda's posts titled Language, linguistics, and mediation. In this post Amanda, referenced a post by Lera Boroditsky titled How Does Our Language Shape the Way We Think.
Being a student of how we think and how our thinking affects our behaviors, I was instantly hooked. I just had to read further. So, I clicked over to Lera's post.
I really enjoyed the reading.
In the process, I observed two very interesting things.
One, Lera's research seems to confirm something I have suspected for a long time – the language we speak both reflects and affects how we think.
While I have learned some Latin, Spanish, French, and German, I am not fluent in any language other than English (although I'm pretty good with HTML and PHP).
As I learned these smatterings of other languages, I noticed both the different ways that things are described and the different ways the cultures that speak them tend to “do” life.
Here's a funny side comment. My mother-in-law was German. In German, “cat” is a feminine word, and she always called our male cat “she”. Mama's behavior seems to fit Lera's research.
Back to the main point. If you want to work out a conflict with another person, pay careful attention to how they describe the world. If your words don't fit theirs, you'll likely have a difficult time connecting in a way that resolves the conflict. This observation may be obvious if you speak clearly different languages like English and German.
Consider this additional thought though, what if they seem to speak your language but you notice that their version of it is slightly different from yours?
For example, I often say that task-oriented people speak a different flavor of English (or any other language) than people-oriented people. If language both reflects and affects the way that we think and we want to resolve a conflict with a person who speaks a different “version” of our native tongue, we need to take extra care to make sure that we understand what they really meant rather than run with what we thought they meant. We need to consider that the words they speak might mean something slightly different to them than what they mean to us.
Second, I found it interesting that I learned something from someone I have never met, Amanda, because she led me to another person that I have never met, Lera. Both of them have great things to say. Amanda and Lera, thanks to you both.
Image from www.sxc.hu