Ever get a little thrill when someone says something, so cleverly that you can’t help but smile and shake your head at their amazing cleverness? You don’t have to agree with what they’ve said, though it’s more fun if you do. I have always had great admiration for those who demonstrate a mastery of language and possess a sizable and varied vocabulary. I would attribute this to my mother, who was well-spoken herself and always encouraged us to look up words in the dictionary when we were young, a battered old version of Webster’s always conveniently at-hand in the living room. Language is powerful – how we communicate to one another is both a skill and a gift that I place a great value on.
Some of us have a facility for breaking down complicated ideas into manageable bits and serving them up in such a way that they can be understood by a previously uninformed group. There are those who have a “silver-tongue” that could charm the most hardened of listeners. Others have an ability to tell a story in a way that paints a vivid picture in our mind’s eye, full of detail, nuance and color. And still others may have a gift for articulating intangible feelings and emotions in a way that allows you to resonate and empathize with the experience. Conversely, some people struggle to communicate even the simplest of ideas or they “speak without thinking” which can often be a source of difficulty.
How you communicate tells the world a lot about who you are. It gives clues as to where you are from, what your background was like, what level of education you have attained. But one has to be careful about what assumptions we make in this regard, as many people adjust what they say to the audience to whom they are speaking, assessing the listener and responding in a fashion which will best get their points across. In many ways it is of course not just what you say but how you say it – that will leave its impression on others. How much of yourself do you want to reveal, what effect do you want to have on the person you are speaking to, and what do you want or need to communicate?
There’s a lot to consider, and most of it happens without our conscious awareness in the most fleeting of seconds. We can do a lot with our words, we can inspire or dominate, amuse or sadden, educate or placate, and there are endless possibilities for results. And there always remains the possibility that no matter how artfully we choose our words, we may still end up being misunderstood as our words filtered through the equally complex listening abilities of others. How do you want to use this most powerful of tools we possess? What do you want people to know about you? How do you want to affect others? And how much do you even want to think about it? Having a simple awareness of the impact of your words maybe enough for you or maybe you want to change your approach, whatever you decide is up to you.