SOARing with CEEK: Session 2, Claims about Language and Conversations


CEEK continues with our cohort of SOAR leaders. Based on the book, Language and the Pursuit of Leadership Excellence: How Extraordinary Leaders Build Relationships, Shape Culture and Drive Breakthrough Results by Chalmers Brothers and Vinay Kumar, Jennifer Hughes is guiding 12 industry leaders on a journey of self-discovery. Our participants are using the power of language and conversations as primary tools to address concerns and achieve their desired results at work and in their personal lives.

Last week, our SOAR leaders focused on language and conversations, learning that language creates and generates; it does not simply describe. To this end, we talked through four breakthrough claims about language and conversation. Below, we dive into one of these four claims in a little more detail.

Claim: We live in language

Language create and generates. Because of this, we are always creating stories, interpretations, and explanations for the events that happen in our lives. What’s fascinating is that you and I could attend the same event and walk out with very different explanations or interpretations about that event. Has that ever happened to you? Have you had the experience of attending the exact same meeting as your colleagues only to realize later you walked away with a vastly different understanding of either the next steps or why we are moving in the direction we are moving, or both? This happens because as human beings, we are wired to make meaning and to make meaning, we create stories. That’s not to say our stories are completely made up but we create explanations about these events (or a meeting) based on our experiences, beliefs, and the distinctions we have.

Here’s a concrete example: Let’s say you and I go to the exact same theme park on the exact same day and ride the exact same roller coaster for the first time. We even sit in the exact same spot on the roller coaster. The roller coaster has loops and twirls and both of our rides go the same speed with the same weather conditions. Is it possible that you could walk away from that experience exhilarated, excited, ready to ride that roller coaster again and I could walk away anxious, uncomfortable, and vowing to never ride a roller coaster again? YES, absolutely! Isn’t it fascinating that our event was exactly the same and yet our experience was completely different? Why is this? Because we live in language. That voice in our head (and we all have at least one voice in our head) creates our experiences and that is language creating and generating a story for me that impacts the choices I make in the future about riding roller coasters. That voice in your head created and generated a story for you that impacts the choices you make in the future about riding roller coasters.

Neither of our explanations is right or wrong. They are just our explanations. It’s possible that my mother told me for years how dangerous roller coasters are so I went into the ride with anxiety. And it’s possible that your father raved about how fun roller coasters are so you went into the ride with excitement. Whatever our history, they are still just stories. This is just one simple example of how powerful language is.

Imagine all the explanations you create on a daily basis about your partner, your community, the other political party, your family, your children, yourself. You live in language and that language is creative and generative. Sometimes, we forget that we are authoring those stories.

Language is powerful. Remember that you are the author of your stories, so make sure those stories support you, and don’t hinder you, in getting the results you say you want in life.

Interested in learning more about SOAR and the other three claims about language? The full list of sessions is available on our website and Jennifer will be sharing more about each session here on the blog. Follow this space to learn more and watch out for availability of our next cohort!