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  • Gary Borland

#35 Committed Language

Committed language makes things possible and makes things happen. What language are you using?

Descriptive language has its place, but if that language is biased towards blame, critique, judgements, justifications, complaints and explanations, then it’s unlikely much will be generated that makes things happen, creates possibilities or creates a powerful new context and future. The last blog looked at this in a bit more detail, so we’re going to turn our attention now to what we’re calling ‘committed language’.

When we’re speaking using committed language, it can be helpful to consider that there are 2 distinct ways in which we might do that. The first is talking that makes things possible. The 2nd is talking that makes things happen. So, what’s the difference and when might we use them?

Let’s look first at talking that makes things possible. This is future based language where we create, invent, dream and imagine what might be. It could be a vision of the future for you personally, your family or perhaps in a work context. Whatever it is, it’s something that doesn’t yet exist but is being created in language by the speaker. I love this quote which has been attributed to an unnamed Eskimo:

“Words do not label things already there. Words are like the knife of the Carver; they free the idea, the thing, from the outside. As a man speaks, not only is his language in a state of birth, but also the very thing about which he is talking.”

The world has been shaped – for better and worse – by people creating possibilities in language and then bringing them into existence. We can make declarations about a future we don’t yet know how to accomplish and then set about bringing it into being.

The 2nd type of committed language is about actions and outcomes and is focused on both the present and the future. Contrast that with some of the characteristics of descriptive language and it becomes easier to see that it’s more often committed language that causes things to happen, and that what’s happening is determined by the people in the conversation. Descriptive language on the other hand often doesn’t cause much to happen, gets a lot of airtime, can be focused on ‘what’s wrong’, and is often about other people.

Next time you’re in a conversation or listening to other people, try to notice what you and others are saying. Are you making things happen? Are you creating a future? Or are you just talking?


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