Forever communicating well

One way to think about good communication is to think about information theory. Or copy machines. Each copy of a copy loses information.

We usually use words as the idea delivery vehicle. Works work, but maybe not as well as we sometimes hope. We can do better.

One way to communicate better is to prioritize trust over understanding. The world is as you say, I don’t have to understand because I trust you. That communication tool works best in time restricted situations.

Another way to communicate well is to consider what ‘language’ the listener understands:

“If you look at (Boris) Johnson’s speeches during the Brexit campaign, they are almost all carefully framed entirely in AngloSaxon words because he knew damn well who he was talking to. That’s always been the key in English or American politics. The idea that someone can speak to the ordinary people not as some quasi foreign elite, but as one of us, is deeply potent to the English and their American cousins.” – James Hawes, The Spectator’s The Book Club podcast, November 2020

But ‘one of us’ isn’t just the words we use. Visuals, emotions, and figurative languages matter too. Sport analytics, for instance, works better visually.

A third aspect is the culture around communicating well. For instance, part-of-the-reason the English language changed was the culture of London. Stable relationships offer little wiggle room for new expressions. But, “In an area like London, where there is a less tight-knit society and consequently lower societal pressures, it opens up language (and other cultural factors) to extensive change.”

To communicate well in that London meant expressing oneself in new ways. I wonder if they would have pronounced it gif or jif?


Modern English is only five-hundred years old and that change in London is why elementary students have to learn about homophones like meet and meat.

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