Mr. V.K.Talithaya is the President of Primacy Industries Limited an Export Oriented Unit at Mangalore. He is an HR professional both in Public and
Private enterprises. He has served with distinction in organizations such as Steel Authority of India, Metallurgical & Engineering Consultants, Deccan Herald group of publications, Kinetic Honda Motors, Bharat Electronics Ltd., Mangalore Refinery & Petrochemicals Ltd. A thinker and practitioner, known for his transparent and solution based approach for long term benefits. His areas of specialization are Human Resource Management, Transactional Analysis, Communication and Neuro Linguistic Programming.

Thursday 23 June 2011


“As you are reading these words, you are taking part in one of the wonders of the natural world. For, you and I belong to a species with a remarkable ability: We can shape events in each other’s brains with exquisite precision. ..That ability is language. Simply by making noises with our mouths, we can reliably cause precise new combinations of ideas to arise in each other’s minds” – Stephen Pinker in The Language Instinct.

The language we use is our most important tool of communication. Language has enabled man to store and improve knowledge from generation to generations. But we use language with scant respect. More often than not the words we use create communication gaps than establishing communication.

An example is the speech by the Chief Finance Officer of a reputed Software company a couple of years ago at Bangalore. Lauding the performance of his company for Q2 he told the press that his company was not able to “comply” with the government’s orders on employment to the local people because his company was in the talent industry! It requires a little effort for the charitably disposed to understand that his company is in the talent industry, and therefore, they have to get the best people irrespective of their state of origin. If one is not so charitably disposed, the conclusion one would arrive at is that because his company is in talent industry he would not be able to employ local people, the implication being that in Karnataka there is not much talent to carry home about! Karnataka has just enough talent to build one of the fine cities (comparatively speaking) which attracts talent from all over India, but surprisingly lacks talent to work in the industries coming in droves to that city! I am sure, this is not what the worthy Chief Finance Officer meant. But words carry to the surface the meaning you have spoken, not the meaning you thought in your deep-structure.

It is this gap between what we think we want to say, and what we actually say that creates the much abused misunderstanding. Politicians have the advantage of blaming the press for wrongly reporting their statements; but not all of us are politicians and so not all of us have that privilege.

Yet, the beauty of language is that most of the time most of what we say is understood fairly well the way we intended it to be understood by most people. That is why when I say, ‘I am going home’, my friend does not ask me ‘whose home?’ Burt when a Mumbai newspaper reported ‘100 BEST WORKERS SACKED’, who will not wonder why whoever sacked the BEST workers was committing hara-kiri by sacking, of all people, the BEST workers! It took this writer a few seconds to guess BEST is Bombay Electricity Supply and Transport! More interestingly, a couple of years ago The Economist, one of the most respected newsmagazines in the world, wondered on its cover ‘The Meaning of Lula’ when Lula became the President of Argentina. Not surprisingly our next door neighbours from Pakistan flooded the magazine with the answers in Urdu!

Serious questions like the one asked by The Economist or a statement like the one in the Mumbai newspaper may create funny responses, far from the seriousness expected. The statement of the worthy CFO of the software company landed hundreds of demonstrators in front of the company’s headquarters! Funny statements or actions, like cartoons or jokes may attract much unintended serious responses, sometimes even landing us in troubles. Whether we get into trouble with our language or have fun depends not only on our disposition, but also of others who give meanings to our words. In the end the meaning of communication is not just what we say or do, but the response we get for what we say or do. And, the responsibility to get the response you intend rests with you.

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