It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it. Okay, it’s both. But let’s take a deeper dive into why we talk the way we do.
Crammed into the most simple of phrases are deep meanings. A misunderstanding of words can come from many things, such as cultural differences. Furthermore, there are subcultures within cultures. For example, the United States has a different language and culture than other countries. Yet, there are separate geographic subcultures, such as being raised in the south or midwest. What comes with that are sometimes obvious, other times subtle nuances in customs, traditions, and languages, known as dialects. A person from the south might have what’s known as a southern twang, whereas a person from up north could very well have a heavy northern accent.
These accents are distinguished by the pronunciation of different words and how they sound. Moreover, as we look at the distinction of how words are said, we must listen to how they sound. Perhaps the most critical element when understanding any language is the way we actually speak, rather than what is being said, otherwise known as tone. Your tone is all about how you come off to another individual. If you raise your voice when talking to someone, they are likely to think you are becoming angry. Conversely, if you keep an even tone throughout a conversation, the other party is equally likely to think you are calm, cool, and collected.
What is being said
To take that one step further, if you talk very lightly and frequently find yourself asked to speak louder, you may come off as shy or timid to others. If you are always loud and the center of attention, you may be viewed as rambunctious by those same individuals. Of course, what is being said matters. If you use nothing but negative words when describing a problem you have with someone, you’re not addressing the issue. We’re all human, and as such, we need compassion and understanding.
Typically, the way we talk stems from our families and evolves socially into our friends at school. Do you have a friend who sounds very similar to you? Or have you noticed the longer you’re around your significant other, the more you sound like them? It isn’t a coincidence. Naturally, we want to be around people who sound like us. So initially, you may be attracted to someone whose voice and dialect are similar to yours, and over time, you start to pick up on the subtle differences you each have in your speech. Eventually, you might begin to sound exactly alike, and that’s okay. Just remember to think about what you say before you say it.
Mindful and transparent
Mindfulness is the single-handed most essential aspect of any conversation. When you talk to anyone, you have to understand the context. If someone’s animal just got out of the hospital, you may not want to bring up the subject of animals. If they’re going to discuss it anyway, then, by all means, dive in. But I am trying to convey that you must be mindful of the circumstances going on around you. Understanding someone’s personality can go a long way in conversations. If you know someone who reads into everything and may take something you said the wrong way, like I often do, and yes, I am working on it, then pay attention to your tone and the exact words you use.
You have to remember we are all unique and had vastly different upbringings. What may come off as a joke to you could be offensive to someone else. I am not telling you to compromise who you are. If you’re a funny, articulate person who thrives on making jokes, then do it, be yourself. But be mindful of the fact that not everyone is like you. Some people will take to your jokes, and others won’t. Similarly, humans perceive words in a multitude of ways. The other day my girlfriend and I were having a conversation, and she said, “that’s not my problem.” This phrase is controversial because it can be taken in several ways, and the manner in which it is understood comes down to the tone used.
It’s best to be transparent with controversial phrases like this and encourage the other individual to understand the context. If you say that’s not my problem to someone in a lighthearted, jokingly, fun sort of manner, they’ll probably laugh and take it for what it is. However, if you look directly at someone and yell that their problem isn’t yours, it’ll surely make them feel like you don’t care about what they are going through and don’t want any part of it. That was the case for us, and I took offense, but later on, we resolved the issue by describing how it made us feel and what we meant. Yet, that’s why it’s best to be transparent in the first place. Of course, both what you say and how you say it matters, but most of the time, it’s how you say it that resonates with and permeates the memory of others.