The Art of Communication

InTouch - Newsletter - #67

Welcome to the sixty-seventh edition of “In-Touch”. As always, I would love to continue the conversation so click here and let me know what you think.

Story of the Week: "The Art of Communication"

According to Willie Walsh, Director General of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), “flying is among the safest activities in which a person can engage” and he has the figures to prove it: Among 32.2 million flights in 2022, there were just five fatal accidents.

There is a very good reason for this statistic: perfect communication. With precision and clarity, airline pilots use specific terms to converse with air traffic controllers in any country of the world. There is no chance of any misunderstanding. Pilots have honed this type of communication to perfection.

Here’s another statistic: According to research conducted by US firm Garter, poor communication is responsible for 70% of corporate errors. In the workplace, it is through clear communication that we build trust and empathy, fostering an atmosphere in which every voice is understood and, above all, valued.

In their book Let's Get Real or Let's Not Play, Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig propose the following exercise to highlight this phenomenon. Participants in a group select a common business-related word – ‘management’, ‘strategy’, etc. – and then each person writes down 10 words or phrases that mean the same (or almost the same) thing to them. Before looking at the answers, the participants are also asked to estimate how many words will be common to all of the lists. Most groups expect an average of three or four common words, with individual estimates ranging from one to six or more.

The authors have conducted this exercise many times and the outcome is both intriguing and enlightening: with very few exceptions, there are almost no common words on the lists!

Here is a vivid example – which also produced no shared words – from a recent workshop of mine, in which the participants were asked to suggest words with a similar meaning to “Leadership”.

Group A / "Leadership" (The answers revealed a more emotional interpretation of the word.)

  1. Care
  2. Vision
  3. Encouragement
  4. Coaching
  5. Guidance
  6. Teaching
  7. Responsibility
  8. Initiative
  9. Delegate
  10. Inspiring


Group B / "Leadership" (The answers revealed a more business-oriented interpretation of the word.)

  1. Authority
  2. Supervisor
  3. Firm
  4. Director
  5. Lobbyist
  6. Administration
  7. Reward
  8. Educate
  9. Influence
  10. Management 


Ensuring that we all speak the same language in an organization is not a choice but a necessity.

Words of Wisdom

“When we listen to someone talk, the brain is constantly making assumptions- hundreds of them. Each word, gesture, inflection, and tone of voice is interpreted, but not always as the speaker intended. We usually are not aware of the fact that we are selecting one meaning from a number of possibilities.” 

Paul Swets / The Art of Talking So People Will Listen

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” 


A Question to Ponder, dear friend.

“Let's do our own version of the exercise mentioned above. Our chosen word is ‘consulting’. Write down 10 words (or phrases) that, to you, mean more or less the same thing, and send them to me. I will send you my 10 words and we'll see how many we have in common!”

I would love to know your chosen 10 words (or phrases)  so click here and let me know which ones they are.