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Do you really mean it?

Words matter. With our words, we create a lasting impact on others.

When I was a child and said something nasty out of anger, my mother, who is very sensitive to language, made one thing clear to me: “Once a word leaves your mouth, you cannot take it back. So better choose your words carefully.”

Later on, I experienced how the communication style of a person can create a memorable impact on others, positive or negative. And today I am convinced that communication style is not exclusively determined by personality and various factors such as cultural codes, but that it is a choice.

Emotions affect the way we talk

In certain situations, we communicate on impulse and our emotions affect the way we talk. If we frequently repeat a certain communicative behaviour, however, it is likely to become a habit – a pattern that influences our relationship with others, our reputation and eventually, our credibility.

Unfortunately, it is always the listener who determines the success of our communicative endeavour. If a listener feels a lack of respect, they will be very unlikely to accept the point we are trying to make.

As Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, notes, “We all have unique communication styles, influenced by many factors such as age, culture, and geography. However, there are different patterns of communication, and when those patterns clash, it can wreak havoc on our relationships.”

Communicative style is a choice

Being aware of the communication choices we make requires a big effort. It means we need to learn to “edit” before we speak or write. And while this may sound simple, wrong communicative choices can create unsurmountable barriers.

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