Parents, leaders, spouses, friends, coworkers; any relationship is made stronger or weaker by how clearly we communicate.  Our word choice, tone, punctuation, and even the timing of our message can affect how it is perceived.

We all know that there are words that we just simply shouldn’t use.  Their meaning is just, well, mean.  “Don’t call your sister stupid”. “Don’t say I hate you”.  Suck.  This sucks, that sucks, you suck.  I was just at a classroom Christmas party and suck seems to be the current 4th grade favorite for boys and girls.

Then, there’s the way we say things.  Tone, inflection, and body language all express
the meaning behind our words. “What’s going on?” vs. (arms crossed) “WHAT’S GOING ON”!  The same words are used, but our intent is different.

The written word is much more prevalent today.  We text, email, instant message as our most common use of communication.  Besides the ability to read the wrong intent into some one’s words by reading in emotion that isn’t there, punctuation misplaced also changes the message.  We have all seen these and laughed.

“Woman, without her man, is nothing” vs. “Woman: without her, man is nothing”


“Eats shoots and leaves” vs. “Eats, shoots and leaves”


“King Charles walked and talked; half an hour after, his head was cut off” vs.”King Charles walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off”

And, how about those spellcheck mishaps?  I once received an email from an executive that was supposed to say “customer inconvenience”.  Instead it read “customer incontinence”.  That was a great LOL moment.

Also confusing the meaning behind our message is the fact that there is more than one party involved.  There is the delivery person and the receiver.  Sometimes we do everything right in the delivery of the message, but the breakdown occurs in how it is received.  Seth Godin wrote earlier this week, that there’s the hard work of understanding.  He posted in his blog :

“Sometimes, we’re so eager to have an opinion that we skip the step of working to understand. Why is it the way it is? Why do they believe what they believe?
We skip reading the whole thing, because it’s easier to jump to what we assume the writer meant.”

If you are looking to build better relationships in 2014, clear communication is a good place to start.

Enjoy this video and a couple of fun links about language

Absurdities in spelling
Why English is hard to learn

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