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.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Mind your language - 4. Clarity - a virtue with limitation

Mind your language
4. Clarity - a virtue with limitation!
By V.K.Talithaya

What do you understand when you read that ubiquitous board on every village school – “Government Girls’ High School”? Does the government have girls for whom they have provided the high schools, or is it a high school for girls run by the government? But we all understand what it is, in spite of the lack of clarity in the name. The candidate who is looking for an opportunity in your organization asks you after the interview or discussion, “Where do I stand, sir?”. What do you reply? _ “You stand on your feet” or do you tell him, “ you stand a fair chance!”? How did you understand what exactly he meant by asking you where did he stand?

A few examples of such sentences from real life, which appeared in newspapers, have been given by Stephen Pinker in his book, The Language Instinct.

Yoko Ono will talk about her husband John Lennon who was killed in an interview with Barbara Walters.

Two cars were reported stolen by the Groveton police yesterday.

The license fee for altered dogs with a certificate will be $3 and for pets owned by senior citizens who have not been altered the fee will be $ 1.50.

Tonight’s programme discuses stress, exercise, nutrition, and sex with Celtic forward Scott Welman, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Dick Cavett.

We will sell gasoline to any one in a glass container.

For sale: Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with round bottom for efficient beating.

How do we make sense of these sentences?  Yet, we make sense of such sentences most of the time! Therefore, in the same book Pinker wonders, “Who could not be dazzled by the creative power of the mental grammar, by its ability to convey an infinite number of thoughts with finite set of rules?” That sums up the answer to the question. Our thoughts are infinite. Our thoughts occur because of the inputs our minds get from the outside world and the creativity of the mind itself. Every day we see millions of things, hear millions of noises and sounds and feel millions of sensations. But our minds remember only very few of these inputs, only those which it needs. If for every decision we take, or for every choice we to make we have to process all the data our mind has been provided, our life would be too difficult to live. In order to save time and simplify our lives we delete or distort a lot of data or information while we communicate. That is what we saw in the sentences above. In our deep structure, in our thought process we have a lot of information to communicate. But when expressed we have to shorten them assuming our listener would add the rest and make sense of what we said.

Bertrend Russel gives a beautiful example of such deletion. Ambling around the zoo, on seeing a hippopotemous, if his grandson asks him what it was, Russel says that like a good philosopher he would have to answer something like :
Child what is happening is that the rays of light coming to your ratina is passed on to your mind, where it is converted into an image the shape of which we generally call a hippo… And, Russel says, by the time the unedited or non-deleted full statement was made perhaps his grandson would not be there with him!

That is why I say, “I am going home”, assuming that the details such as to whose home I am going will be added by you.

But there is a flip side to editing. We say, for example, “Life is becoming too difficult”. The deletions are obvious: To whom is life too difficult? How much difficult is it? Or take this one: “You could have done better”. The question, or lack of clarity is, better than whom, or better than what? In most company cafeteria the most frequently talked about entity is “they”. “They do not understand our problem”. “They demotivate the whole lot of employees”. “They discriminate.”  Who are they? What problem? Asking these questions to yourself, when such thought processes go on in your mind clarify your thoughts. Besides asking such questions also makes your communication less ambiguous.

No comments:

Post a Comment