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Words mean a lot to us. Language allows us to communicate with each other. We can tell so much about a person from how they speak, like where they are from, their “go to” words, if they like to use color metaphors (swear), are they religious, etc… Words and language literally speak volumes. Then when you talk about dialect, wow! That is another level.
Today I feel we are in the second coming of babel. The world has become smaller and our exposure to language has become vast. Try this as an experiment. Think of all the ways you can say money (I counted 9). The reason I asked you that was because not only are we losing the basic blueprint to how we talk to each other but we are losing the ability to talk across generations.
I’ll give you an example. I am a history major, so I know some old terms and phrases. (I love the transatlantic accent). My wife is 7 years younger than me. Even though we are in the same generation we have some trouble understanding what the other is saying.
We use to live in an condo. One day the lock stopped working so I changed it. We also had a deadbolt on the door. Well I totally confused her by calling it a deadbolt. She never heard the word before. I should have explained it better. After about 8 minutes of going back and forth, she said “oh, the top lock. Why didn’t you just call it that?” She had a very good question, why didn’t I just call it that?
Since that day, I have realized how language is important. I think, today, we are so stuck on ourselves and our perceptions that we forget everybody does not talk or sound like us. We throw these perceptions on people who hurt us (emotionally), people we don’t understand, and especially people who don’t speak the same language.You don’t think you do? Ok! I can guarantee you can recall a time you saw an ex and the first thought that came to your mind was “here we go”, in the most dreadful way you could think. Or, getting your order from a person who learned english as a second language and you thought they were mean, or you said your order slowly, three times.
So I learned a few things about language that may help you navigate people and life a little better. I’m not a linguist, psychiatrist, or any other field of professional study. I’m just a guy who can walk into a room and talk about anything. I guess you can say I have life experience. (I know you are like “but you wrote about your depression and anxiety”. True, like I said in that blog I have small bouts of it every so many weeks or months, but I’m not debilitated by it daily. I refuse to be, I still can hold a conversation)
Clear verbal Communication
I noticed the limitations of my communication skills when I was older. My marriage taught me that I am terrible at communicating my feelings, especially if you hurt me or gave me a harsh reality check. I use to shut down when I felt I was being talked at or blamed. I felt it was so much at stake in our conversations (hence my minor bouts of anxiety). I know I annoyed my wife. I would open up so much that she would be like “ok, too much”, or give her nothing at all, I had no balance (and I’m still struggling with that today). Sometimes I would start a conversation from the middle or with a movie reference. I would totally lose her in our conversations.
Balance is so key to the way we speak. To many emotions and we lose sight of the words and focus on the emotion. To little emotions and we tend to think “you don’t even care”. Again got to have that balance.
I always knew how to hold a conversation I just never focused on it. I started to look at in terms of a master. Think about it! When you master a skill, it doesn’t matter what anyone says or if you make a mistake. You are fully confident in your skill. I can talk all day about history, comics, and video games and never skip a beat. So I try to apply that same pattern and steps to my regular conversation and social arenas im uncomfortable with. I have also learned to talk as if I have never met this person before. I slowed down and watched my words carefully making sure to consider the other person’s age and mood.
It sounds like a lot, but trust me. You do it so much you don’t even realize you do it.
Today is so hard to track non verbal cues. My brother will walk into a room and look so mad. “Hey bro, are you ok?”. His response “Yea, I’m just tired”. (tired😫 angry😠). Did I miss something in the last, I don’t know, all human history. When did we start exchanging expressions. I work with behavioral and special needs kids. I see that they have no control over certain expressions. A lot of times they will not keep eye contact. Every child was a new form of non verbal expression. We had to learn it fast too. After 10+ years of seeing it so much it became second nature.
BUT, the non verbal cues in my household were the most difficult for me. My son and wife are constantly growing and changing. I would always miss a beat when it came to their non verbal language. I would literally stare out my son to see if I could read something off him. It took me a minute or two but it worked. My guess is that I just wanted to relax at home and it was not a high stakes situation like at work. IDK, im still processing this one.
This one is interesting. Have you ever tried to talk to someone while or after they got mad? Have you ever felt like “Why are they still talking?”, in your mind, so you don’t respond. Well it’s because your emotions are the 3rd party guests in a conversation. Mood, word inflections, flow, these are all linked to our emotions when we talk. Like Dr. Kings “I Have a Dream” speech, so much emotion
I use to always express my issue or several emotions in an argument. I remember my wife asked my one time “Babe, what do I do that you can’t stand or something you would like me to change?”. My internal dialogue went nuts. Shields up, it’s a trap (voiced by Admiral Ackbar. Google him). Scottie more power to the shields. Captain, uhm, givin er all she’s got (Star Trek OGS). Danger Will Robinson (Lost in Space). All that wasted mental energy. My response…. “I got nothing babe, you are perfect”. Now, yes, for me my wife is the closest thing to female perfection. BUT, when she opened up I should have told her “Um, I Love you, but babe, your snoring is harsh” (LOL just an example people). In her defense it was not every night. When she did, look out!
When we have a connection to a person we are talking to, it can be a game changer for a conversation. I remember talking to a guy at the DMV. We were in line for an hour. Our shared experience gave us a connection. After a while the woman in front of me and behind him joined the conversation. We were all total strangers to each other, but our situation stirred our emotions. Once that happened we had something to talk about, then, we expanded. Like he was a father of three. One of the young ladies was the 2nd generation of her family in America. We spoke for almost an hour. It was either that or count the ceiling tiles.
(I know your thinking it and yes I did have my phone. It’s not about that, It’s about the DMV and still having long, long lines in almost 2020. Ok, it’s really about language and the conversation I had, sorry, I had to get that out)
Experiment time, read the next 3 sentences ask yourself, what is going on? How do you feel it was being expressed.
- Turn the light on, please.
- TURN THE LIGHT ON PLEASE!
- Um, could you please (sigh) turn the light on.
- Turn the light on, PLEASE.
I’ll let you have the discussion about it but my point with this experiment is that if you sit down with other people and do this I guarantee you will get a slew of different answers. Who’s asking the question? Is it night time? Why is he/she asking to turn on the light? Just try it, see what people say.
When it comes down to it we have to consider so much for modern day language. Location, background, mental health, point of view, race, culture, age, etc… Language is not simple. When you add relationship to it, you get another level. When you add time another level gets added. Knowledge, intelligence, ability to speak another language, more levels are added. It’s a head spinner. My fear is that we lose the ability to have a rousing conversation because our hard focus on self, cell phones, and not society, that our language becomes robotic. I guess if they keep making lines long at theme parks, Airpots, and DMV’s we will never lose our human language.