The function of language

One of our associates and I were reviewing the syllabus for a retreat we are doing next week. When we reached the section on the function of language, we looked at each other realizing we had just reached the same conclusion: this is the most difficult distinction for anyone to get.


To first take a moment and review the point, it is this: there is no such thing as reality. There is only your reality and you actually create your reality every time you open your mouth. Therefore, the function of language is to create your reality with.


To describe this in a bit more detail, people think they see with their eyes. Actually, you do not. You see with your mind. You take the conversation going on within you and project that conversation onto what’s in front of you and see only your individual interpretation of whatever is going on. So you’re not seeing what’s there, you’re creating what’s there, which is why everyone has a different interpretation for whatever is occurring.


Why is this so difficult to comprehend? Because we are all intelligent human beings and it is oh so tempting to trust our eyes and believe that whatever we see is really the truth. How can it not be? There it or he or she is, right there, doing whatever it is doing or being however it is being. We’re not stupid. We can see what’s really going on.


But the point is: we can’t. The nature of us is that we interpret and give meaning to everything. Everything is neutral, nothing has any inherent meaning. Everything only has the meaning we give it. We are a meaning generating machine and we give people and things meaning based upon our entire life’s experience. Again, it’s hard for us to realize that we are doing this. We think we are explaining how things actually are instead of creating with language our own personalized interpretation of how things are.


What’s the point here? Just start to accept the fact that everything is neutral, that you interpret and give meaning to everything, and be willing to be responsible for the meaning that you give to people and circumstances. As I say in Unshackled Leadership: your tongue is like a paintbrush. Every time you open your mouth, you paint a picture for you and those around you to live in. Start noticing that and choose your words carefully. It will make an enormous difference.