Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wall words vs. Bridge words

In an earlier post I shared that communication is shared meaning. One of the great enemies of shared meaning is wall words. I honestly don’t remember if I developed this concept or if I “borrowed” it from another writer or teacher. Wall words are words that literally shut down communication. I usually think protection, separation, and isolation when I think walls. Words that shut down conversations and the exchange of ideas are wall words. Here are some examples of wall words:
  • Sweeping generalizations
  • Stereo types
  • Absolutes (always or never)

Unlike wall words, bridge words are words that connect people. Just as a bridge spans the gulf that separates two land masses, bridge words connect people with other’s thoughts. Bridge words keep communication flowing and allow us to find the mutual ground of shared meaning. Likewise, here are some examples of bridge words:

  • Restate their previous thought (“So what you are saying is…”)
  • Ask open-ended questions…(A question that can’t be answered with yes or no)
  • Empathize with the other (“Are you feeling this?”)

Remember, unless there is shared meaning…communication has not taken place. Are your words aiding or blocking communication? Do you have any communication tips?

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