The Evolution Gap and Rule Ten

Aug 10, 2023

Be Precise in Your Speech

Jordan Peterson, a renowned Canadian psychologist, provides practical guidance for life in his book “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.” Rule 10: “Be Precise in Your Speech” focuses on the importance of clear and exact communication. When we examine this rule through the perspective of the Evolution Gap, we reveal the depth and complexity of this seemingly straightforward principle.

I. Understanding the Rule

“Be Precise in Your Speech” urges individuals to articulate their thoughts, feelings, and desires clearly and precisely. Peterson posits that vague or imprecise language can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and conflict. By speaking precisely, we can foster better understanding, prevent unnecessary conflicts, and promote more productive dialogue in personal and professional relationships.

To understand the evolutionary perspective on this rule, it’s crucial to note that human language is a relatively recent development. For most of our evolutionary history, communication was predominantly non-verbal, based on body language, facial expressions, and vocalizations. With the advent of complex language systems, our ability to communicate has evolved rapidly, outstripping the slow process of genetic evolution.

This fast-paced evolution of language, paired with our relatively unchanged genetic makeup, creates what we refer to as the Evolution Gap. Our brains are still heavily wired for non-verbal communication, which can create a dissonance between what we say and how it’s perceived.

Our Stone Age brain, attuned to the subtleties of non-verbal cues, can often misinterpret or overreact to spoken words, leading to misunderstandings or conflicts. These automatic reactions that once served us well in the wild now pose challenges in our complex modern society.

Furthermore, the indirect and nuanced communication that may have served a purpose in small, close-knit communities can become a source of frustration and conflict in a world where precision and clarity are paramount. A lack of precision in language exacerbates the issue, leading to more room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

Precise language serves as a bridge over this Evolution Gap. When we articulate our thoughts and feelings clearly and explicitly, we leave less room for misinterpretation and reduce the likelihood of instinctive emotional reactions.

Peterson’s rule also aligns with our understanding of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) principles. By encouraging individuals to express their thoughts and feelings accurately, we promote healthier thinking patterns and better emotional regulation, an essential aspect of managing our inherited Stone Age instincts.

In conclusion, Peterson’s tenth rule, “Be Precise in Your Speech,” is a guideline for effective communication and a tool to navigate the Evolution Gap. Understanding the impact of our evolutionary past on our communication and applying precision in our speech can improve our interpersonal relationships, reduce conflict, and enhance our quality of life. Bridging the Evolution Gap, in this case, involves harnessing the power of precise communication, fully utilizing the potential of this relatively recent evolutionary advantage.