Communicate in the Language of the People

Last Updated on: September 18, 2023

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.

William Butler Yeats

One fatal flaw that often causes miscommunication is the words used because oftentimes, there is a mismatch between the speaker’s vocabulary and the listener’s.

During my undergrad years, I had law-related subjects, and one of my questions about these laws and policies is why were the words used highly technical.

Though they were written for the masses, most of these rules are not understandable to the common people.

When I asked one of my teachers about that, he just gave me a scenario. He said, if you’re a person who makes laws or policies, lectures in universities, or commands people of high stature, would you want them to say that your vocabulary is limited?

Though the question was only indirectly answered, It made sense.

I realized that we often want to show our intellect by speaking and writing in a higher-level language. Unfortunately, it sometimes causes misunderstandings.

The impact of using simple language.

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In the 2016 US Presidential Elections, taking the politics aside, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton were not on the same level regarding their communication skills.

Clinton had a more extensive vocabulary than Trump.

Trump, the eventual winner, and 45th US President use simpler words compared to the last 14 presidents.

This difference of words they used proved useful during rallies and debates since it is more understandable for the general population.

To relate this, we all know that the power of simple language and rhetoric used by Trump to win in the US was also proven effective in the Philippines in 2016.

It only showed the importance of choosing understandable words, not only in politics but also in other aspects of life.

Bridging the gap through education.

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Another story is from an architect friend. His boss once asked him to explain an instruction for his workmen.

His attempt was not convincing because he used words that were not easily understandable to everyone on the construction site.

His boss explained that since the construction comprises people from different backgrounds and education levels, not everyone will understand highly technical terms.

Using simple language can help avoid costly miscommunications.

Finding the common ground.

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When it comes to language, English can sometimes be intimidating.

So, it is essential to understand that speaking in English is not an absolute determinant of intellect.

Try to use the common language that the larger audience speaks, or use words that are easier to understand as much as possible.

Don’t shy away from using Filipino or regional languages like Bikolano or Bisaya if it means you’ll communicate better.

Teaching to be not too technical.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

Albert Einstein

As a college instructor teaching Electronics, it is impossible not to use technical terms when explaining engineering concepts.

However, I believe that students must not be just memorizing words and reciting book definitions.

They need to understand.

That is why I rarely give “remembering” questions like identification and enumeration. Instead, I ask questions where they should explain concepts in their own word.

I want to teach the importance of using simple language because once they graduate, it is likely that they will work alongside people of different backgrounds.

Final Thought

Communication can only be effective if both parties are on the same page.

So, if you think there is potential miscommunication between parties, try to find common ground immediately.

Communication is more than just words spoken and heard. It is the connection established between individuals that cause understanding.

Never forget that language is used to connect, not to divide, and often, the simpler, the better.

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