How the way we talk can change the way we work ... and think

I am working through an intriguing book How the way we talk can change the way we work written by two psychologists of adult learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The authors contend that we are naturally immune to any form of change (with our systems quickly rejecting casual changes) and to make change in ourselves and others we must learn 7 new languages (ways) to think and talk about change.

How the way we talk can change the way we work

"If we want deeper understanding of the prospect of change, we must pay closer attention to our own powerful inclinations not to change"

Below is a list of the four "Internal" Language forms and the three "Social" Language forms and the old -> new language for each:

Internal Languages
1. Complaint -> Commitment
2. Blame -> Personal Responsibility
3. New Years Resolutions -> Competing Commitments
4. Big Assumptions that Hold Us -> Assumptions we Hold

Social Languages
5. Prizes and Praising -> Ongoing Regard
6. Rules and Politics -> Public Agreement
7. Constructive Criticism -> Deconstructive Criticisms

The book guides the reader through the first four languages using a Four Column Technique with a column for each of the languages based on self-examination around the following questions which I have paraphrased slightly below:


1a. What sort of things - if they were to happen more frequently - would improve your on-going development at work?

1b. What commitments or convictions that you hold are actually implied in your response to the previous question?

2. What are you doing which prevents these commitments you have identified being fully realised?

3. What are the competing commitments which get in the way?

4. What is the big assumption which explains why you behave this way?


Finally, there is an excellent preview of the book on the Harvard website: How the way we talk can change the way we work.

About Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson delivers keynote conference speeches, workshop facilitation and in-house consultancy in four key business areas:

  1. Creating High Performing Teams in enterprises including Virtual and Mobile Teams (based on the Bioteams Book)
  2. Establishing effective Collaborative Business Networks enabling companies to co-operate effectively in areas such as sales and product development (based on the book - The Networked Enterprise)
  3. How to use the latest social media technologies including blogging and online communities to promote enterprises, brand, organisation or event
  4. Development of graphical on-line interactive Business Games, Dashboards and What-if Simulators for organisations to support Performance Improvement, Strategy Development and Executive Team Development.

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