Finding a Common Language

What do we mean by a ‘common language’? If we are all speaking the same language why is it that we often find ourselves experiencing a lack of common understanding. As the way in which we work together becomes more interdisciplinary it becomes increasingly important to ensure that we understand the meaning behind the language we use.

For example ‘equity’ within a gender awareness context has a very different meaning to the use of the same word within a financial context. This is why it can be useful to spend time decoding our language. If we are able to start from a place of greater understanding of the contextual meaning behind terms and words, we can then form shared meaning, from which we can work together for mutually beneficial results.


Even within the same sector the understanding and use of a word or term can be problematic. During a 2017 Oxfam conference on ‘Resilient Solutions: Strengthening collaboration in a time of change,’ the word ‘resilience’ took on different meanings depending on whether it was relating to climate, economic, organisational or social resilience. By inquiring into the qualities, attributes, values, journeys and experiences of resilience we begin to form a shared meaning, acknowledging that there is no one person that has the answer, and that it is not necessary for each person to share the same view if we share a common understanding.

One way to help find a common meaning and understanding is to work with Bohm dialogue. A communication technique that allows the shared meaning of the group to emerge. Speaking from a place of active listening and non-judgement we are able to value the unique experiences and perspectives of each participant, and by enquiring into any assumptions or biases we may hold, we can suspend our judgement long enough to allow new thinking to emerge.

If you are interested in talking to a member of our team about how we can help your organisation find a common language please get in touch at or find out further information about our taster workshop here.