Language — we all have a duty to “tone it down”, until we don’t.

I do my very best to be respectful of others, and in doing so, there are times when it’s appropriate to take responsibility for a situation. I do so almost 100% of the time with my daughter, as she’s a minor child; those times I don’t are when we’re allowing her to stretch and grow into her own independence.

There are also times when people demonstrate that they are clearly not being responsible — people under the influence of drugs or alcohol, people with mental instabilities, etc… Even in those cases, I do my best to respect their choices, unless they are threatening harm to myself or others.

Using that as a working context, there are times when I need to apply the same thinking to my language. Again, in the case of my daughter, it would be ineffectual and possibly harmful to her if I used language beyond her ability to describe something to her. I also need to guide her towards more sophisticated aspects of life with consideration for her developmental level — openly discussing adult sex in explicit terms with her as a child would be harmful, even traumatizing.

So, as in that case, there are times when I have a duty to “tone down my language”. In fact, as a coach, it’s in everyone’s interest to find the most appropriate and accessible way to communicate. If I don’t, then I’m thinking more for myself than for the person in front of me.

The same goes for many other concepts and ideas. As a technology consultant, I need to speak the language of my client, otherwise I lose them; they can’t keep up, they lose interest, they feel uncared for. That’s bad business.

This can be applied in any context where there’s an inequality of knowledge. Consider a husband-wife relationship. If a husband doesn’t understand the complexities of his wife’s needs, she has an obligation to bring him up to speed. By presuming that he knows her needs, or that he ought to forecast and intuit them, she’s not honoring and respecting the necessary growth in the relationship. The very same rules apply in the other direction as well — this isn’t just for one gender or the other.

At the same time, I need to keep my ears open. I need to pay attention to when they do comprehend what I’m saying, so that I can give them something progressive afterward. Continuing to talk in overly simplistic terms can hold back development, and even become an act of coddling.

If I don’t pay attention to these aspects of communication, then I’m paying less attention to my client; and they’re the one’s paying for it.

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