Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Language--Seeing Through Your Ears

“Language best shows a man; speak, that I may see thee”

Language is a part of our lives every day. In our hi-tech world we are always communicating. Between text messaging, social networking, email, and more, we are not limited to arranging face-to-face conversations to talk anymore. While whether this is a good or bad thing is a subject for a different post, this change does serve as evidence that we are using language to communicate more than ever before.

Now that it has been established that we are almost constantly communicating, what does that have to do with the quote? Every time we communicate, or use language, we are revealing a piece of the puzzle that is our identity. Don’t believe me? Think about this situation. Angela and Kathy both stub their toe. Angela lets out a yelp and says “Ouch!” Kathy lets out a yelp… and a stream of expletives. Only one word is changed, but the effect is very different. We would all love to say we never judge, however, you would likely think of these two girls in two very different ways. What about two friends Eric and Danny? Eric uses positive language about everything in life, but Danny never ceases to discuss the negative. Do you think of them the same? Not likely. One last bit of convincing evidence: Think of the last time you were on the phone with someone you had never met before. Try to remember how they spoke. Did you create an idea of what they might look like based purely on that? The language we use and how we use it creates an image of who we are, for better or for worse. Whether we speak in a way that is loving or hateful, respectful or rude, positive or negative, we show who we are and what we care about.

People make certain assumptions about someone according to how they talk. For instance, one who uses words that are not commonly known are quickly labeled as smart (maybe even nerdy or self-righteous); on the other hand, someone who uses language with a lot of slang and poor grammar is likely to be seen as someone less educated (maybe even lazy or stupid).

If this quote is true, perhaps it can be said that it is critical that we watch what language we choose to use and how we choose to use it.

Challenge: Before you speak, think about what image you wish to portray. Does your language support that image? If not, maybe you ought to either revise what you wish to say or perhaps it would be best to not speak at all.

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