A Word Is Like A Handle On A Suitcase

A word is like a handle on a suitcase

All the problems we have with other people come down to communication.

Those who are the best at selling and influencing others are the best at communication.

Don’t you love that? Communication.

What does that word mean?

And that is the heart of the problem. The word is packed with meaning.

You have a definition which may differ from mine. And when you use it you assume I understand your definition. If we have the same definition we’re in agreement. But if we’re not, then that’s when problems escalate.

Except it’s not just with the word “communication.”

Every word we use is packed with meaning. I love this metaphor for words:

"A word is like a handle on a suitcase; it allows us to grasp and carry the experiences in the suitcase. When you hear a word that you don’t know the meaning of, it is just a sound, because it doesn’t indicate anything to you. It is like an empty suitcase - or perhaps a handle with no suitcase attached - because it doesn’t connect with any scope of experience." - Steve Andreas, Six Blind Elephants, Vol. 1

When we don’t know a word's meaning it’s an empty suitcase. But if we each hold a different meaning of a word then we’re carrying two identical suitcases with completely different contents.

The only way to unpack those contents is with questions. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “What do you mean?” Other times you need to dig more deeply. (I’ve written a lot on questions. You can start here, here, and here.)

As Steven Covey said, “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.”


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Some links may be "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products I think are valuable to you. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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"I’ve paid for a lot of training that didn’t even scratch the surface of what you’re giving away for free." – Courtney James