Language is, while innate to us all, an impossibly complex and convoluted method of communication. You may think nothing of your interaction when ordering a coffee from your local café, but beneath every sentence lies an intricate set of rules and implications.
These rules and implications are vastly different across every language. You may wonder why, in English, you can say “at the weekend”, but you can’t say “at Sunday”.
Perhaps you’ve asked yourself why different languages use wildly different sentence structures, or why you should never pronounce the “T” at the end of the French word for “cat”.
The language you use could help climb your business to new heights, or it could harm its chances in a competitive market. You don’t necessarily need to understand the ins and outs of language use, just why it is so important to use effectively.
So read on to discover one word that could transform your business communication that isn’t even in the English language. Your business may thank you for it.
The complexity of language allows it to be more than just the way we speak
The pure magnitude of language as a communication method is what allows it to be used for so many different purposes. Language is vital in both everyday life and business, but it is never as simple as you think.
Language isn’t just the way we interact with one another; it is a conveyor of emotion and intent. It can be used for specific purposes like persuasion or questioning. It can be used to relate to or disassociate yourself from someone else. The list goes on and on.
Language is the tool with which you can voice and express your thoughts, not just to one another, but also inside your own head. In fact, some theories suggest that the language (or languages) we speak can completely alter how each of us think.
You need to be aware of this in your business and in daily life, as the language you use can shape what others think of both you and your business. Language is a marketing tool, a client-facing tool, a PR tool, and the basis upon which you have built your entire brand.
You don’t want to let you or your business blend in with the crowd.
Green is just another shade of blue
Language can affect the way you perceive time, space, ideas, and even colours. As an example, what native-English speakers consider to be the colour green, is considered just a different shade of blue in Japan.
In fact, the Japanese word for “green” (緑 – “midori”) wasn’t even introduced into the language until sometime during the Heian period (794AD – 1185AD). In modern day Japan, many of the things English speakers consider to be green (traffic lights, apples) are thought to be just another shade of blue (青 – “ao”).
As such, when using language for any purpose in business, you need to stand out. You want to make people think of your business differently, a cut above the rest, and not let your “green” become just another shade of “blue”.
Your language use will be someone’s first experience of your business
You want the message and abilities of your business to be heard. Imagine how hard it would be to attract clients or customers without the use of any form of language. Imagery, mime, and interpretive dance can only take you so far.
When trying to attract potential customers, the language you use will be someone’s first experience of your company.
This language, in whichever form, will be how they initially connect to you through a mutual understanding, and you need to strengthen that connection.
Your speech and writing should be understandable, simple, inclusive, and focused on your audience. If you use every piece of jargon from your field of work, or the content is simply uninteresting, those who aren’t already invested won’t give it a second glance, and that is a client lost.
You need to be kind and caring through your language, but not too far as to be condescending or belittling. A warm greeting and well wishes carry weight when building relationships between friends, colleagues, clients, and businesses.
Plus, you should always pay attention to any language that could alienate a portion of your audience. You don’t want to use gendered pronouns in your business unless you are talking about specific people, because that immediately alienates 50% of your potential audience.
If your audience includes non-native speakers, consider removing words they are unlikely to know, such as “pulchritudinous”, “audacious”, and “sycophantic”. Yes, the systems that a language is based upon are complex and convoluted, but the words you use don’t have to be.
Your language must be inclusive and accommodating because if someone feels left out, they will simply turn their back and leave. It is your job to make them interested.
Help yourself be seen the way you want to be
You probably interact with language in your day-to-day life more than you do with any other object, idea, or system. It is the cornerstone of everything we do, and the main way to demonstrate who we are.
This is crucial for any interaction you have in life, professional or otherwise. Whether in a client meeting or calling up your car insurers, people will form judgements about you with every word you choose to speak.
It’s natural to want to be viewed positively; this is the very basis of Brown and Levinson’s famous “politeness theory”, and the concept of “face”.
But how do you ensure that you come across the way you want to? How do you always make a good first impression, and build strong linguistic relationships?
I look halfway across the world, at the Japanese concept of “omotenashi” (おもてなし). Directly translated, omotenashi means “hospitality”, but it more accurately translates to serving everyone from the bottom of your heart.
It reflects an overwhelming desire to be kind and caring at every opportunity. It is generally employed in the customer service industry, but can be used to simply guide the everyday interactions of your life.
Making a positive impact on everyone you meet can do wonders for you and your business. Making someone smile with your conversation could be the difference between gaining a new client, or even a new friend, and not.
One way to improve your English usage is to adopt a concept that we don’t have a word for.
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