With no instruction at all, you are probably a fluent master in the language of symbols being used to convey complex ideas and emotions these days. This skill may be more important than ever—and it’s also loads of fun!
If you’ve ever finished a note to your mom by drawing a little heart or used a smiley emoji to be certain someone understands the tone of your text, then you understand the power of symbols. But… why is that?
Symbols are fast becoming a vital global language as people are moving around the planet so easily and we make the world accessible to people with various disabilities. Now we’ve had to come up with simple symbols that convey life’s necessities and keep everyone safe: Here’s the bathroom. Don’t drink this water. Mind the gap. Beware of Dog! and in our neck of the woods (Northern Vermont, U.S): Cow Crossing.
But this is all nothing new. In fact, if you think about it, we may be returning to our communication roots! The oldest cave paintings are 35,000 years old 1 and full of simple symbols that tell a rich story of life.
Fortunately, we have creative people with the kind of minds that can cleverly find the sweet spot between meaning and abstract shapes. The writer/illustrator Christoph Niemann, is a very funny public speaker and best at explaining (and designing) this symbolic language. He has an amazing knack for tapping right into our shared experiences and emotions with his illustrations.
Here is a humorous TED Talk by Christoph Niemann that is packed with ah-ha moments
Lovely fun there, huh? What a great sense of humor and this talent for finding a common denominator in a few shapes put together just right! Amazing.
Did you notice his method of consistently eliminating details until the concept is at it’s most rudimentary but useful form?
His best visuals seem to follow that “less is more” principle. I was inspired to think about how this concept might even work in our day to day communication in our businesses and family.
How often do we muddy the waters with too much information?
“The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” —George Bernard Shaw
I once had a wonderful friend call me at 9 pm for business advice. He was in a panic. Apparently, he had the regrettable task of having to fire an employee who just would not come to work regularly. He had asked her to stay after work for a quick chat, and yet 3 hours later, after he thought he had fired her (but let her down easy) my friend asked her if she had any questions. She answered, “Well, yes, now when does my raise start?”
Oh my! He had given her too much information for her to understand the most vital piece!
In the most important conversations we are having, maybe the best course is cut away all the extemporaneous words and get to the point, gracefully.
Oh, and here’s one more wonderful article about what can be “said”, without saying anything at all!
We’re going to assume that you’ve discovered TED.com (it’s an amazing place on the web where you can see brilliant people, thought leaders give short, inspiring talks) but did you know that we have curated some of the very best TED Talks for you?
I’ll close with some links to the best places here on the Ever Widening Circles website to find articles about TED Talks that will become your favorites too:
All the TED Talks we’ve written about
EWC Top 10 Favorite TED Talks
Our various “Circles” playlists of TED Favorites by Category
Stay open, curious and hopeful!
~ Dr. Lynda