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Communication Skills Training: Objective and Subjective Language

Communication Skills Training: Objective and Subjective Language

Objective and Subjective Language

It is important to distinguish between two kinds of language: Objective language and subjective language.

Every day you experience your "personal experience". You have to experience YOUR experience of an event.

But isn't it true that YOUR experience of an event, may be very different to the experience of the person sitting right next to you?

For example, you may go and watch the new Jurassic Park film and you may experience excitement and the other person may experience boredom.

Two personal experiences of the same event? How would you explain that?

Simple; take a look at the diagram.

Your personal experience is NOT one thing. It is built up of subsets. Your personal experience is made up of five subsets.

Five parts of your Personal experience

1. The facts:

Defined as; "the raw reality of the situation".

2. Sense perception:

Your mode of perception of the raw reality, which will be some combination of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell.

3. Identification:

The act of knowing what it is you have seen (heard, touched, tasted, or smelled).

4. Evaluation or opinion:

The act of forming a judgement about the thing you have identified. Whether you think that thing is good or bad, right or wrong, nice or not, fair or unfair, etc.

5. Emotional response:

The act of responding positively or negatively to your evaluation. If you evaluate the thing as good, nice, right, fair, then you feel positive emotions.

If you evaluate the thing as no good, not nice, not fair, then you feel negative emotions.

Objective and subjective parts

It is important to understand that your experience has both an objective and a subjective parts.

  • The objective part of your experience is: The identification of a fact as revealed to you by direct sensory evidence.
  • The subjective element of your experience is: The emotional, judgemental, evaluative and opinionated part of your experience.

Objective and subjective language

It is important to distinguish between two kinds of language: Objective and subjective.

  • An objective factual statement is a statement that is verifiable by sensory evidence or a logic based on sensory evidence.
  • A subjective statement is a statement that is not the result of sense perception or logic but is rather the expression of an opinion, a gut feeling, an intuition or an emotional response.

It is important that you distinguish between subjective and objective statements.

Each time you hear a statement that is a subjective statement, you need to ask yourself how that person can objectively validate the statement. Look for the sensory evidence and/ or the logic that validates the feeling or the intuition or the opinion.

Exercise to distinguish objective from subjective statements

Have a look at these statements and decide which ones are objective statements; which ones are subjective statements, and which ones are mixed?

  • I am sure that he did it because he looked very guilty when I asked him about it.
  • I am sure he did it because I found the missing item in his locker.
  • He lacks confidence.
  • She always avoids situations that mean she has to make a public presentation.
  • I saw him take my biscuit and eat it. He didn't even ask me.
  • The flowers are beautiful.
  • The roses are a deep shade of red and have a strong fragrance.
  • I feel that the nurse who looked after me showed a bad attitude and was not interested in me at all.
  • The man looked drunk.
  • The man smelled of alcohol and his speech was slurred. He was unsteady on his feet and he had stains of what appeared to me to be spilled coffee on his shirt front.
  • I found the nurse who attended to my father, to be rude and aggressive and he should be disciplined for that.

To develop your communication skills, here are our suggestions.

  • Try to develop your sensitivity to distinguish objective, factual statements from subjective, emotional, opinionated statements.
  • When you are listening to others speak, ask them to translate their potentially misleading subjective statements into their equivalent, corresponding clearer, objective statements.

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