That one simple word (no pun intended – okay, who am I kidding: as a certified word nerd I totally intended that pun) can conjure up several images: a dictionary, an affirmative response (statement: “That new DOT autonomous seeder is incredible!” Reply: “Word!”), memories of high school essays, Scrabble games, the emotional parting words from a loved one.

And like those multiple perceptions, people can interpret any one word in many ways.

Words are constantly mixing and whirling around in our heads: We have conversations in our dreams, speak to ourselves quietly inside our own heads, and talk in our sleep. But like air, we take words for granted. And yet, they are completely central to our ability to function in the world.

How an individual interprets a certain word can be the difference between understanding something and finding common ground upon which to build a dialogue and a subsequent relationship or a complete communication miss.

Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

If you’re using the wrong words with your intended audience, you might as well be speaking another language.

To intrigue your listener, find the words that resonate with their reality.

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