One Word at a Time

Submitted by Raising the Village on February 23, 2012 - 3:18pm
Finding Group Meaning

We enjoyed hearing people's personal words of intention for 2012! Got us thinking about Collective on.

Look up the definition of the word "Word" and you might find this description: Putting one’s feelings into words or a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning.

The key term that pops for us here is, meaning. One of the things we have found working with individuals, groups and community is that what one word means to one person may mean something completely different to someone else.

Multiple meanings behind a word will vary between people based on many factors such as; perceptions, experiences and feelings. In Graham's book Exploring Perspectives, the author states that our reactions to words may also be triggered by semantic distractions, the trigger words that send blood rising. They become the focus of attention, instead of what the person is saying about any of those things. Our reactions can distract us and have our mind shut down from what another person is trying to communicate. So much for active listening, meaningful dialogue, and getting on the same page!

One suggestion is that we don’t just listen to the verbiage but we ALSO listen to the emotional content behind it (the inflection, eye contact, pitch, tone, speed and body language) so that we can SEE what this word means to someone. Keep the focus on the other person speaking and save your reaction to the word until it’s your turn to share.

Think about what’s available when we truly put aside our own reactions and actively focus on someone else. Hearing MANY meanings behind words can move groups towards a collective understanding, definition and goal. Imagine checking in with your group regularly around the definitions of certain words like: diversity, outreach, inclusivity, and the ever popular village raising term of collaboration. What does collaboration mean to you? What does being inclusive look like? What symbolizes diversity? Asking such questions helps to clarify the key words that are often the base of working together.

In other words, it helps us to find group word at a time.

Village Raising Question:


-What “word” could use a clarity check-in for you and your organization?

-This week, notice words that pop out for you. What meaning do they hold for you? How about for those you work with? Look for clarity check-in opportunities.

We’d love to hear what words send you to the group check-in counter. Post here.