“We don’t always say what we mean and we don’t always do what we say”

Martin Buber

Good leaders know that influential communication is very complex although we all think it’s pretty simple. They know the meaning of a message is not necessarily the message itself.

They know that we have memes and emojis to help add context and increase the depth of meaning to our written messages.

They also know and genuinely believe what the hard science tell us which is even in hard science, reality is questionable. (In Quantum physics, something can be once a particle and a wave). In human communication something that is clear to me may mean something else entirely to you.

For you folk like me, here’s what the definitions tell us.


In linguistics, this is information or concepts that a sender intends to convey, in communication with a receiver. Influential communication also requires reducing ambiguity and ensuring clarity of what is meant by what is said. Ambiguity is confusion about what is conveyed, since the current context may lead to different interpretations of meaning. Pragmatics is the study of how context affects meaning, which depends upon linguistic context and situation context.

Linguistic context is how meaning is understood without relying on intent and assumptions.
Situation context refers to every non-linguistic factor that affects the meaning of a phrase. An example of situation context can be seen in the phrase “it’s cold in here”, which can either be a simple statement of fact or a request to turn up the heat,
A person’s intentions affect what is meant. Meaning as intent harkens back to the Anglo-Saxons and is associated today still, with the German verb meinen as to think or intend.

Ie. What we intend often doesn’t shape our words.

Meaning is conveyed in our whole aspect. Words evolved from gestures and noises and are literally embodied. Now, still after 1000’s of years of speech development, we still speak with our bodies. Our bodies reveal the meaning, even if our words try to cover up.


Meme is an abbreviated form of the Greek word “mimeme,” which means “something imitated.”

A meme is a means for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.


Emojis are small icons and images used in text messages, on websites, and as part of other digital communication. The word “emoji” comes from the Japanese e (?, “picture”) and moji (??, “character”).

Here’s why you should use emojis in writing and as verbal speech images.

Emojis Boost Engagement

Repeat after me: Emojis = Engagement.

It might be a new mantra for you, but it’s true nonetheless. Emojis have been proven to boost engagement levels, click-through rates, and open rates.

Emojis help drive engagement on all variety of digital media: email, mobile, and social media.

Emojis Convey What Words Can’t

“I can’t wait.” vs “I can’t wait!” vs “I can’t wait ?”

They enforce the meaning of your message. They’re the ? on top.

Quantum physics

Nobel physicist Wolfgang Pauli, said “If these (material) phenomena are dependent on how they are observed, then they also depend on who observes them (i.e., on the nature of the psyche of the observer). Even physical reality is influenced by who and how they it is observed.

Mirror neurons are one of the most big deal discoveries in the last decade of neuroscience. These neurons respond to actions that we observe in others. In terms of influence our mirror neurons fire in the same way when we actually recreate that action ourselves. Imitation then, connects and influences others. It helps connect with the other person’s state of mind and reinforces recognition and understanding.

Just smiling changes your mood and others’ mood. Place a pen between your teeth, you imitate a smile and actually change your mood.

Our Brain Links Gestures, Perception, and Meaning

Gestures don’t function in isolation. Research shows that gesture not only augments language, but also aids in its acquisition. The two may share some of the same neural systems. Acquiring gesture experience over the course of a lifetime may also help us intuit meaning from others’ motions.

To some extent, cognition is also “embodied.” The brain’s activity can be modified by the body’s actions and experiences, and vice versa.

Uh huh. So we have studied and know all this stuff about meaning and perception and influence.

We have a greater appreciation about the imprecision of reality and the presumed definitiveness of our own perception and beliefs. We are sceptical, but have read the research on gestures and speech, mind and brain and how they inform each other. More challengingly they influence others if we mirror their non verbal expressions.

What does this have to do with good leadership?

With this data in our heads we do 5 things differently:

  1. We don’t assume we know things. We have a viewpoint. Not necessarily the correct point.
  2. We undertake every important conversation with curiosity to enable some learning; theirs or ours, or both.
  3. We respectfully match our counterpart. We mirror words, understandings, nonverbal displays and much more. We know this stimulates the mirror neurons in us both which results in more safety and trust.
  4. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.
  5. We observe, listen and speak in a ratio of 50:30:20.

In this way we are good leaders.