The ThinkingKnowingSaying Gap

The gap between what we think – what we think we think – and what we actually do or say may be one of the greatest causes of inequality in our day.  As social structures have become increasingly complex, so too, the need for sophisticated communication skills has increased exponentially. I call this the ThinkingKnowingSaying Gap.

How many times have you had a tense or angry conversation with another person – perhaps your significant other, or a close friend – and part way through you realise you can’t remember what you’re even arguing about?  Or what you wanted to achieve from the discussion?  Or worse, they are recapping ‘what you said’ and it bears no resemblance to what you remember saying?ThinkingKnowingSaying Gap

Whether on an individual, organisational or international level, failure to communicate effectively – or accurately – has serious ramifications.  From domestic violence, to corporate collapses, to war – the consequences of failing to say what we mean (or from misunderstanding the meaning of someone else) can be life-threatening.

Obviously what we say (orally or in writing) is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and much has been written about the percentage of communication that is non-verbal.  Actions do speak louder than words – but words are also actions, and shouldn’t be underestimated.

In The Power Paradox, Dacher Keltner describes how power is granted to an individual by others as recognition of the value that they have added/are adding for the group.  If power is the currency of social interactions, the most commonly accepted (and accessible) method of exchange is the spoken or written word.  Keltner goes on to outline that gossip is how the group can withdraw or diminish the power of an individual who is no longer serving the interests of the group.  In this post-Machiavellian understanding of power and power dynamics, it is clear that expertise in effective communication is vital to gaining and maintaining power – and therefore enjoying a fulfilling, healthy and meaningful life.

Among other things, this Blog is going to dissect the causes of the Thinking/Knowing/Saying Gap, and propose solutions and exercises to help anyone become a more mindful and compassionate communicator.  Drawing from wisdom traditions, psychology, business and strategic studies, it will guide you through some of life’s trickier social interactions, with the aim of making you a more effective communicator – and ultimately a more successful[1] human being.

“First, learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.” – Epictetus

[1] Based on your own definition of success.

2 thoughts on “The ThinkingKnowingSaying Gap”

  1. It is tricky – and add to this the HearingUnderstandingAccepting-gap on the receiver side: even though the receiver might hear what you say, she might not understand it, and thereafter not accept it – you could say that it is quite remarkable that we are able to communicate at all.
    The good thing is that we get better at it all the time – as every time we communicate, we must try to learn from our mistakes and improve before the next time we try to get a message across. That – combined with the fact that we learn more about our recipients’ communication preferences over time, means that it actually is possible for us to convey a message.
    And if we even add on top of this a basic assumption that the people we communicate with come with good intentions – and that anything that indicates otherwise might just as well be an outcome of communication being difficult, rather than ill will – we have at least a good foundation to base our communication on.
    Thereby not said that we should not try to continuously improve. For this reason, it is wonderful that people like you make blogs like this to help us all in bridging the gap.

    • Hi Henrik
      This topic really fascinates me – and this was a very early post, which I’d probably write quite differently if I tried it again now! 😉
      But I’m glad you enjoyed it!
      I think we all assume that because we can talk, we can communicate – but communication (and thinking) is a deeply complex analog hifi/lowfi conversion process with lots of ‘loss’ along the way… It’s a wonder anybody knows what anybody is talking about! And maybe that explains a lot of what is going on in the world these days!!

      Take care!


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