The Use of Language and Listening
“Words are chameleons which reflect the color of their environment,” (JudgeLearnedHand). Listening is the first form of communication we learn. Even before a child is born it can respond to the sound of their parent’s voice. The ability to listen helps us develop our capacity to speak and respond verbally. You need to develop this skills-language and listening, yourself to really have a quality interpersonal relationship. How you speak and the language you use helps people understand you as a person.
Through experience, we may have learned that there is a difference between listening and hearing. Maybe we do know someone with selective hearing when it comes to things like talking to them while they are watching TV, or with children trying to avoid doing chores. To hear a word or sound is just having your ear work, literally, and transmit an electrical response in your brain. Listening is a more involved process. You have to hear something, focus on it, construct meaning, remember, and respond (Beebe, Beebe, & Redmond, 2010). Your response gives an individual validation that you listened. Based on the words you used could determine whether or not you are believable in your reply.
A person’s emotional intelligence goes a long way in showing how effective of a listener they can be. Emotional intelligence is a socially-based concept researchers have used to access someone’s “people skills.” Emotions influence the way you relate and react to others. Being unaware of the emotions you are experiencing internally, and how you are communicating it externally, you are more likely to create confusion, misunderstanding, and distrust (Emotional Intelligence Central). The qualities of a person with good emotional intelligence are recognizing nonverbal cues of yourself and others, knowing your emotional behavior patterns, using words to accurately describe your feelings, and not being controlled by your emotions. So developing good active listening skills and developing positive emotional intelligence can greatly benefit your interpersonal relationships.
Words and Language
As a toddler, you are first learning vocabulary by repeating words after your parents. Their language and culture are being passed along to you. Based on their values will decide what words are acceptable in the household. Since that is a very influential time in a child’s development, where they are creating a routine, it is important to avoid demeaning and profane language. Profanity today is impacted by culture and society. The context in which you use profanity may be acceptable if it doesn’t offend the group present. It can show the level of comfort that you have in your interpersonal relationship with that person.
The meaning of a word is created by an individual. Personal experiences create feelings that develop the connotative meaning of a word. The way we use words literally changes our brain activity. The words we use reflect our thoughts and culture. “Words don’t have meaning; people create meaning,” (Beebe, et.al., 2010). The study of semantics is a way of making sense of how societies and groups are linked together. Also, etymology and linguistics, research the origins of words and the cultures that developed the symbols.
We cannot assume that all English words objectively describe human emotions. It is hard to put emotions into an all-encompassing category (Weirzbicka, 1992). The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states language shapes our culture and culture shape our language (Beebe, Beebe, & Redmond, p. 160). I agree with this theory because today’s culture keeps developing and changing. Sub-cultures develop new words to share their experiences and emotions. In some cases, they create slang by combining feelings with words. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis also shows evidence that words have shaped entire cultures. As societies have grown and changed if a term doesn’t relate anymore then it is no longer passed on. This has caused a backlash among younger students and even many adults that are struggling with literature like, The Canterbury Tales and Shakespeare because many of the words are not common knowledge.
At all points in life, we may experience communication apprehension. Getting up and speaking your mind can be a difficult internal struggle. Your job and other public situations may want you to uphold a certain level of conformity in your verbal communication. Being aware of your internal dialogue and paying attention to your emotional state will assist you in clearly communicating yourself in stressful situations. If you are experiencing stress expressing these emotions can be difficult. The tone and inflection of your voice can also show your true feelings. Adapting your communication style to a given situation is common without even noticing.
A support network of family and friends to help understand and relate to you through a stressful experience will strengthen your bonds with them and your channels of communication. You should be aware of how others perceive you but not always conform to their expectations. If it is important to you to express your feelings then you should, but in a way that is mutually respectful. When communicating emotions you should use “I” language. This keeps the tone of the conversation from becoming defensive.
Communication is a very valuable skill that has many aspects that are easily overlooked. Many times people talk and hear but there is a breakdown of understanding. Instead of hearing, a person may just be thinking of a witty comeback or be monopolizing the conversation. Communication is a process that is more complex than a lot of people realize.
If having good communication skills wasn’t a high priority in your family of origin, then developing them in your own interpersonal relationships is necessary to maintain these abilities long-term. In a laissez-faire family style, like my own, low orientation toward conversation and conformity, puts an emotional distance between the members.
As I have learned from experience, that to maintain a positive romantic relationship communication has to be a top priority. Despite how you learned to communicate you must adapt your verbal communication skills. Managing conflicts and talking about your feelings is important no matter how awkward it may seem. Recognizing when it’s a good time to talk and what type of mood your partner is in will make communicating smoother. Honesty can make or break an interpersonal relationship, so isn’t it better to just be open and share your feelings. There is definitely a level of tact you need to be aware of when confronting sensitive issues.
Tact is a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others (Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Edition). This is what I think this best describes being other-oriented. These are just some tips on how to improve and evaluate our relationships with others, being conscious of how you are perceived and understood can help improve your self-awareness. Being other-oriented to me is being present in conversations and clearly communicating and listening to the meaning of the message. Effective communication is a highly valuable skill for the ongoing pursuit of success and happiness.
Beebe, S. A., Beebe, S. J., & Redmond, M. (2010). Interpersonal Communication. Pearson Education, Inc.
Emotional Intelligence Central. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2010, from http://www.emotionalintelligencecentral.org/eq/emotional_intelligence.html
Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Edition. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2010, from http://www.britannica.com.allstate.libproxy.ivytech.edu/bps/dictionary?query=tact
Naming Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2010, from NEONYM: http://www.neonym.com/naming-quotes.html
Weirzbicka, A. (1992). Semantics, Culture, and Cognition. Oxford University Press.