being multilingual

The art of persuasion requires a balance of individualistic traits and audience-dependent communication tactics. You are who you are. Your listeners (and/or readers) are who they are. The transfer of knowledge and sentiment is optimized only when those characteristics and qualities meet in the middle.

The cultural diversity of our world is amazing. At the simplest level, I’m envious of those fortunate to have been able to grow up learning multiple languages, customs, and behaviors. Being multilingual, in the traditional sense, is an truly desirable quality that could bring a high level of social opportunity to an individual.

But being multilingual does not just mean speaking more than one language. Being multilingual means to be able to dynamically adapt your voice to any audience to optimize understanding, induce thought, and drive action. This quality of being multilingual is just as valuable in today’s society as it is to be multilingual in the traditional sense.

In the latest issue of Wired magazine, Clive Thompson writes about “The New Literacy”. He talks about how many people think kids can no longer write. But in his mind (and my mind as well) other factors have changed what it means to listen, comprehend, and be persuaded.

“The reality is just that the paradigm has shifted” he says. “What today’s young people know is that knowing who you’re writing for and why you’re writing might be the most crucial factor of all.”

It’s called Kairos – “assessing audience and adapting tone and technique to best get a point across”. It’s not a new concept, but certainly continuing to be a most desirable trait in our accelerating world. Much of that acceleration can be attributed to the development of our handy communication devices and, more specifically, social media technologies. Our personal ratio of consumed information bits per unit of time has exploded because of the new mechanisms by which all that information can get to us. In a sense, modern technology has enabled a new understanding of speaker-audience relationships. It has driven a new balance of the effectiveness of a particular message and the efficiency with which that message can be delivered.

“Technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it – and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.”


So what are some takeaways? Again, it’s important to be who you are in any speaking/writing environment. You are who you are and that’s important to maintain. However, you must also adapt your communicative approach based on your readers and/or listeners. Use the right tone, tactics, and now, technologies to convey your point (3-T Kairos). Learn to balance effectiveness with the efficiency of delivery.

In the end, we all have goals of a message: Do-outs, takeaways, new thoughts, new understanding, business decisions, relationship formation, topic persuasion, product promotion, ideal alignment, etc. We have many tools at our disposal: our posture, hands, facial expressions, sounds, volume, speed, pauses, colors, punctuation, vocabulary, the internet, social media apps, visualization technologies, our experiences, our ambitions, our uniqueness, etc. Find the best combination of tools to fit the goals and you’re in a good place to succeed.

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