The formalization of thought and the effects on communication for the use of leaders

Giuseppe Ando
min read
The formalization of thought and the effects on communication for the use of leaders

Thanks to Daniel Kanheman we know that it is pure illusion to consider ourselves exclusively rational beings without conditioning such as, for example, our prejudices. Yet our rationality remains the condition for the progress and development of our species.

Therefore, it is possible to mediate between our intuition and our rationality to (partial) advantage of the latter, otherwise we could not explain anything about everything we use every day and which represents the technological basis of our life. It matters little if we will never be 100% rational, we know that this is impossible and therefore it would be irrational to set it as a goal. Furthermore, our intuition is an irreplaceable ally in quick decisions with little information. If the premise is true, a leader can only be a person who works to best express his or her rational nature. 

The formalization of thought and the effects on communication  peopleHum

In this regard, I would like to talk about linguistic communication (therefore excluding all non-verbal communication), relating the speed of our logical thought with the expressive medium that conveys it, that is language. The field is very interesting, because it apparently challenges Kanheman's criteria of fast thinking and slow thinking, in a context in which rationality and intuition, always understood in the meaning of "slow thinking" vs "fast thinking", they almost overlap. 

But let's explore the topic. Have you ever wondered how it is possible that in a minimum time, well under one minute, you can think of a meaningful sentence and pronounce it? Have you ever wondered how it is possible that language and thought travel (apparently) at the same speed, almost as if thinking a sentence and pronouncing it were a single operation? Do we first formulate a thought and then translate it into language or is the thought not fully formulated and completes itself as we close the string of words we are saying? If we applied the famous recommendation "think before you speak" literally, we would live in a world where communication between human beings would go at a ridiculous speed and we would all die of boredom before being able to ask "sorry, what time is it?". The temporal gap between thought and language escapes our consciousness. We know what we're going to say, but at the same time, it's like we're hearing it for the first time.

We are "possessed" by our thoughts that seem to come out in the form of language, beyond our control. Until a few decades ago it was certain that language and thought were two distinct things and that thought came first in time. In other words, it was believed that it was possible to think, even without language. Then this theory was revised and the opposite conclusion was reached, namely that thought and language were indistinguishable, rather that thought depended on language. 

Today there are advanced methodologies that are exploring which areas of the human brain are activated during the use of language and / or during logical processes through fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging)) that is, that thought and language were indistinguishable, indeed that thought depended on language. 

Meanwhile, in daily activity, it is essential for a leader to understand how to keep what he says under control, to express himself by saying exactly what he means. Let's start by asking ourselves this question: "Do I speak to think or do I think to speak?" If you are particularly reactive during a conversation and, as you speak, compose your thoughts, you belong to the first category. If, on the other hand, you are less impulsive and build the thought that you are going to expose first in your mind and then transform it into a sentence, then you belong to the second category. 

The time gap with which you separate thought from language determines your style of communication and therefore of leadership. It is not said that the more ready you are to speak, the more "intellectually fast" you are, just as it is not said that whoever takes more time to formulate a sentence is more reflective and rational. The thought-language relationship is also determined by the quality of the interaction with our interlocutor. There are people who in a situation of close dialogue slow down the pace of their thought - language relationship, but if they are called to give a speech in front of an audience, which cannot interact, they become much more confident and quick. 

On the contrary, there are people who maintain a very tight and quick level of conversation in dialogue, but who in front of an audience slow down and articulate what they say very well. Language is the sensitive form of our rationality. It is the way in which we formalize our thinking. "Formalize" means, in fact, to give shape, that is to make intelligible to all the contents we intend to communicate. The language we speak, as well as mathematics, are languages, therefore formalization methods. 

Attention, verbal formalization is not a certain way of transferring univocal and unambiguous contents, it is "only" the tool with which we shape our thoughts. Hence, bad formalization compromises the value and meaning of the formalized content. This is why a leader must methodically work on his / her own thinking formalization skills, to make his verbal communication rational and understandable. 

As we have already said, there are two methods of spontaneous management of the thought-language relationship: there are those who speak to think and those who think to speak. If you speak to think, you probably have a habit of thinking aloud and fine-tune your ideas as you listen. You are people made to work in a team and you love to have an interlocutor to explain what, in reality, you are explaining to yourself. As you interact, create and order your thoughts. What is the limit of this setting? That your interaction with others is only instrumental. You like to listen to yourselves because it is essential to formulate your ideas. 

In reality, you are not particularly interested in what your interlocutors say, as long as they interact with the modality of "stimulators" of your thoughts and your creativity. You are not particularly inclined to be interrupted while you speak, and not for a matter of bon ton, but because you fear that the positive current that generates your ideas will be interrupted. Those who speak to think cannot organize their ideas by themselves, they convene meetings to be able to exercise their brain functions. Formalize thought as it generates it, therefore it is often forced to revisions and second thoughts. Do you think to speak? So, it is likely that you are a person who, basically, prefers to make decisions alone and always offers ready-made solutions.

 For you, the interaction with your team is a moment of making your decisions official. Not being drawn to a real-time creative confrontation, if someone raises a topic that you think is valid, this causes an update of the meeting. You need to reason with it and re-formalize your thinking. For you too, the interruption tends to be negative. You experience it as a useless waste of time, you have already worked out the final decision, therefore, giving the word to someone means running the risk of having to re-formalize your thinking. 

Who thinks to speak, he rarely revises his decisions. There are a number of techniques to rationalize the way leaders communicate and make it more balanced, with the aim of making the team an integral part of the decision-making process. A leader, by definition, is not a soloist and it is good to remember this every time you start communicating with your collaborators.

We hope you got some great insights from this blog. Its now time to apply it. Get started with peopleHum for free today. No credit card needed.

Effective communication
thought leaders
leadership styles
decision making
Thinking digital
human behaviour

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