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What You Think It Means

Happy New Year, Everyone!

We are back after a much-needed break. This, of course, means that my inbox is overflowing with inquiries and requests. One of the themes I notice more when the volume of email is high is the way in which people use language. People will refer to Presence, Tone, Authority, and Authenticity (among other things) as if they are set things. I can be guilty of this as well. Here’s the thing, all of those words are subjective. In fact, some of these have become so popular in business writing that no one quite knows what the words mean anymore.

So how do we make sure that everyone is on the same page?

You have to be clear about defining the terms you are using within the context of your speech. For example, if someone tells me they wish to change the tone of their voice, I need more information. Are we discussing the actual pitch range of the voice or balance in the soundwave itself? Is there a perception about the tone that is informing the concern and where does it come from? Are we discussing sound quality, strength, or something stylistic? These are just a few of the areas where the definition of this particular term finds instability. Importantly, there are places like this for many terms. Especially the ones that we personally are certain we know.

The clearer your definition of a term, the more likely you believe that others understand the term in the exact way you do. In fact, you can come to believe that your definition is the “right” one.

Your belief that you understand what something means does not actually make others understand what you mean when you say it.

For clarity, it is more important to know what your audience believes something means. This means asking more questions. It also means listening for the places where your definition of a concept matches or differs from that of the person you are speaking with.

It takes a little bit more time and attentiveness but in the long run, it will save you from many misunderstandings.

As always, I’d love to know what you think about this topic. Comment on this post or email me.

Gina Razón is the Founder and CEO at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service verbal communication studio in Boston’s Back Bay.  She has over two decades of experience as a teacher of voice and speech, is a communication and change facilitator, and is a voraciously curious voice user.  Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker.  For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit

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