Speaking is a sequential process. We can only speak one word after another.
However, thoughts aren’t sequential. When I think something – let’s say the word “orange” – a network of associations immediately pops up in my brain. In yours, too. Most likely different than for me.
Thoughts form a network. One thought leads to other thoughts which lead to yet more thoughts, loosely connected and jumping from one to the other.
One of the major challenges for speakers is that our audience’s networks of associations are different from ours.
What’s worse: We can’t just tell somebody our network of associations because there’s no easy way of serialising the network.
Speaking is sequential. It requires a series of thoughts. If we want to tell somebody something it can only be done one word after another. My knowledge network has to be transformed into a linear stream of information.
The problem is that every thought (word, even) in this stream of information sparks a network of associations for our audience. And again for the next thought. Our hope is that it will fit into our audience’s knowledge net in a meaningful way – ideally, ending up with the same network.
But it’s far from guaranteed that it does. And there’s no easy way to find out.
A good start is to acknowledge this dilemma and take into account that our audiences might have a completely different set of associations than we have.