September 21, 2018 fm

They Cannot Even Define It

Abstraction, abstraction, Picasso in words – I am so tired of abstract expressions! The other day I did an experiment in one of my trainings. After yet another speech full of abstraction I asked one of the participants: Thomas, can you define the word ‘respect’? Thomas smiled awkwardly. No response. I moved on. Laura, can you define the word ‘respect’? Laura smiled awkwardly. No response. I moved on. Ivan, can you define the word ‘respect’? Ivan smiled awkwardly. No response.

Analyze your language. How many times do you say words like ‘respect’ assuming that everyone understands what you mean.

Reality is, they cannot even define it!

Respect, value, quality, growth, agility, or, abstraction itself … – words like these hide behind thousands of walls of meaning. Abstract words mean something different to every single person. Your meaning is not their meaning.

Have you ever spoken to a scientific audience? When you speak to scientists, the first thing you must do is giving a definition. If they don’t know what exactly you are talking about, they freak out.

For a long time, I thought that was nerdish and funny. But – I stopped laughing. I changed my mind. How can you persuade an audience who have 10, 100, 1,000 different interpretations of everything you say?

So – instead of saying,

Respect is an important value in our company,


For me, respect means to never make anyone feel bad with my words or actions. I am proud that our company shares my value of respect.

When you analyze your abstraction for your audience, you are one step closer to be understood by them. You put everyone in the room on the same page.

And when you do that, I will be so much more willing to follow your meaningful words. I will be so much more awake.

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