Why language matters

There is nothing more important to your organisation than language. Language is everything. Words not only allow you to express what you think, they also shape how you think – and how you influence. That means if you can’t articulate or explain something, it’s because you literally don’t know what you are talking about.

Here is the reality.

Language impacts every aspect of human endeavour; often in surprising ways. What people think are communication problems, leadership problems, management problems, customer service problems – anything, really – are usually language problems. Most organisational problems are actually language problems because if your language is wrong, so is everything else.

These language problems are caused by people applying a meaning to your language that’s different to what you intended. This happens because we often don’t really know what we mean. When we don’t take the time to clearly explain what we mean, other people will provide a meaning for you.

All language is contextual. Words cannot be relied upon to universally describe what we’re trying to say. They can’t be used as labels. We have to explain our context to other people because if we don’t, they’ll bring their own.

Unfortunately, people generally don’t explain context very well. There is a tendency to assume that everyone intuitively understands the words we are using to describe something, but even the most basic words will have multiple interpretations. Often times, even the

Why language matters person using those words doesn’t truly understand what they mean by them. And if they don’t understand it, why would anyone else? This ebook applies ‘sensemapping’ to the idea of safety and explores some of the ways that language impacts the effectiveness of safety initiatives. We hope you find it interesting and useful. We encourage you to share it with anyone who cares about safety.

About the authors

Brett Rutledge is a former World Champion of Public Speaking, and an internationally regarded business strategist, linguist and communication expert. He has acted as a key advisor on the language, meaning and structure of some of the most important commercial deals undertaken in Australasia, working with many high profile individuals and organisations to change the way they are perceived, valued and respected.

Brendan Keogh has more than 20 years experience as a copywriter and author, helping individuals and brands articulate and communicate their ideas, concepts and points of view. He has published multiple books and articles on a range of technical subjects, and produced podcasts, audiobooks, videos and social media content for a variety of blue chip clients. Brendan has a deep love of language and a strong understanding of how words have the power to change the way we see the world and our place in it.