The limits of our language are the limits of our world.

Is there a thing behind this thing?

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Carlin famously theorized that drugs were illegal because they gave people a new slant on the game that was being played on them.

George wasn’t paranoid, he was simply experienced.

And the good news is, we don’t need to use drugs to get hip to the nuances of the human tragedy. Each of one us can become less naïve by paying more attention to when people are speaking in code. When they are using certain expressions to rhetorically veil reality.

Like when we receive one of those ambiguously worded emails from a stranger who claims to love our work and wants to talk about a potential partnership opportunity.

Careful. Opportunity might be code for a demand on our time, energy and money.

Or when an ad agency boasts about perks like bean bag chairs and ping pong tables and unlimited snacks for employees.

Not so fast. Company culture might be code for no money and long hours.

Or when a tech startup romanticizes their quarterly design sprints.

Easy now. Hackathons might be code for you will work all weekend for nothing but free pizza.

Of course, this habit of speaking in code doesn’t make people liars, cheats or malicious hacks. Merely human. Happens every day. People are trying to be diplomatic. They’re soldiers for the lie. And it’s not necessarily their fault.

We all do what we have to do to feel the way we need to feel.

Still, our challenge as communicators is learning to sniff out the code so we can protect ourselves from being misled, exploited and hurt. We must ask ourselves.

Is there a thing behind this thing? Is this a subtext worth paying attention to? What motivational system might be at work? And how might this person be trying to subtly influence our decisions?

Remember, the limits of our language are the limits of our world.

Beware of those trying to lock you into ways of thinking and behaving that limit your ability to see new possibilities.

Who might be creating a cloud of connotation designed to put you in a susceptible frame of mind?

* * * *

Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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