“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” If I had a dime for every time I’ve said this to my husband or my kids…I’d have a lot of dimes! I love them, but there are moments when I question if they were paying attention when the “how to be tactful” lesson was being taught. If they read this, they’d tell you that I’m the one who needs to have a thicker skin. The truth, my family could probably meet somewhere in the middle to avoid some confusion and hurt feelings. Although we really do know each other, communicating our point across well is still a process we have to continually work on.
It’s tricky the digital age
Anticipating how people are going to interpret what you say is always a crap shoot, especially with technology thrown into the mix. Honestly, who hasn’t had an email or text come back to bite them in the butt because something you meant to say didn’t come across exactly the way you intended. It happened to me just this morning when I was replying to an email from another mom about something that was going on at my son’s school. Four emails later we both finally agreed we were annoyed with someone else, not each other, about a lack of communication. Pretty ironic, seeing as we weren’t communicating well either.
It’s simply a reality that things can get lost in translation over the World Wide Web, and sometimes it’s difficult to decipher someone’s true meaning when you aren’t face to face. For that reason, it’s important to know which voice to use. I could have sent that same email to my best friend or to my husband, and they wouldn’t have thought twice about it. They know me and I know them, and my meaning wouldn’t have gotten lost in translation. This mom and I don’t know each other well, and we both should have taken that into consideration before hitting send. I should have changed my voice.
Say what you mean – just watch how you say it, and think about how it will be heard
If I just gave you the impression that you shouldn’t say how you really feel about things, that’s certainly not the case. Although I think that it is better for people to be direct, I believe that you should consider your audience. Tone, words, and inflection (or in the case of email, punctuation) could make the difference between a mixed message and an understood one.
For example, one of my kids is just like me. He’s sensitive and takes things very personally. He’s hard on himself when he does something wrong, or not to his own standards. I know this about him, so I choose my words and tailor my voice when we are discussing things. This helps him hear in it a way that will allow him to process it and grow from it. On the flip side, I have another kid who isn’t particularly sensitive, and I don’t need to sugar coat things during our discussions. As a matter of fact, a really direct, in your face approach, works better with him. It’s how I get him to pay attention and listen. I actually have five different approaches for five totally different kids, but this isn’t a parenting blog, so I’ll leave the other three out of this.
If you want people to listen
Communication is the idea. It’s about getting your thoughts and ideas across. If you want to be understood correctly, seriously think about it before you open your mouth or touch your keyboard. It will keep the lines of communication open and flowing smoothly.