Using Words Effectively

How expression and tone can change meaning

Patrick Ullmer | Photo Courtesy
You may think you sound one way, but others may interpret you differently.

We all have said things we wish we could take back. Sometimes, we mean what we say when we say it, and other times we don’t mean what we say and simply have to let off some steam. However, the end result is almost always the same. 

A negative statement begets a negative reception. In a recent class, my teacher explained that every action is a personal one. Of course, everyone has heard the statement whether on TV or in real life, “It’s nothing personal.” All I can say about that, after assessing what I learned from class, if the action has an emotional reaction then it is a personal action.

The other week I said something I should not have in front of people close to me who had always envisioned me as a high and upstanding figure. I made an exclamation of anger having failed to pull up a slideshow for a presentation I was putting on at a meeting. The statement was not aimed towards them, it was one that expressed pure anger at the failure of the slideshow to come on.

“This sucks!” I shouted aloud (this is the censored version). No sooner had I said this than I realized I had made a bad mistake. I could tell by the expression on their faces after my statement that they had never before believed me to be capable of such raw emotions. I had definitely shown them a different side of myself, one of which the people gathered had not realized I had.

Every action has consequences. My consequence was embarrassment. I felt somewhat vulnerable for the rest of the meeting — and I felt ashamed of saying such a vulgar comment.

The next morning, I was texting a friend on my phone. I was not in the best mood that morning but my friend was. Just from the wording, I could tell from the wording of the text that my friend was concerned about my attitude.

I almost texted something to confirm my distaste in the events of running for errands but then rethought it. A single sentence or even word for that matter can make or break a message.

I then reevaluated what I would say responded. In my response, I took on a different mindset and found the rest of the discussion to be much more pleasant than it would have had I let my emotions take the wheel again.

Sometimes it is best to stop and think about what it is you are about to say. If you feel terrible then it is best to not express pure emotion in words. You can let your friends know your discomfort enough by your facial expressions and body language. The words are simply the confirmation of the message. How the message is delivered is how the message will be interpreted. 

Suppose I said my remark at the meeting with a wry smile and a calm tone of voice. If that had happened, I doubt I would have scared anyone at the meeting. I would have probably just elicited a chuckle from them.

Now I realize that expression can taint or drive home a message and we all must be careful in how we do take such measures. Even in written messages, your feelings can be shown through the structure of the sentence. I believe that emojis were added to help convey the feelings behind the message. Emojis can also display sarcasm in a condescending message. 

Whether speaking out loud or via written message, you should always be careful to convey the right feelings; those being ones that will not inadvertently hurt others. Words can hurt and words can heal, and the feelings behind them can completely change their meaning.

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