“How” matters as much as the “what”

Two young women talking animatedly with gestures
Photo: © Cathy Yeulet / 123RF Stock Photo

People may not always remember what you told them, but they will never forget how you made them feel. There is always a difference between what you say and how you say something. Even if what you want to say is legit, the way in which you communicate it can alter the way it will be perceived.

There is always a difference between what you say and how you say something. Even if what you want to say is legit, the way in which you communicate it can alter the way it will be perceived.

Think of words. When said with power, they create an indelible impact in people’s minds. Often times, it’s not instances of celebratory appeal that reveal the power of words. It’s usually those moments when you want to disagree, disapprove of something or someone’s behaviour, reprimand and the list is endless. Frequently, you are always mistaken during such moments not because of what you said, but how you said it. Your intentions were not wrong, but the manner in which you said it made the receiver feel as though he or she was being ridiculed. The result — your message was received with aversion or you came across as someone seeking to protect his or her own interests. Even if your intentions were genuine, your way of communication didn’t reflect it.

Over the years, I have noticed it’s not only words that can clearly differentiate how we say from what we intend to. Our voice tonality, expressions and gestures too can create a wide gap between the “what” and the “how” and we surely have the means to correct it. Here are a few ways how our messages in such situations can be received sportively without altering the crux of what we intended to mean through them.

Rephrase!

Many a time, a change in words can spare you your reputation. My dad used to famously quote: “Instead of referring to someone as a fool, you could always tell them to be a little more intelligent”. Not only would such words elicit respect from the receiver for you, but inspire him/her to commit to a change. Most people use this way of communication when they want to point out someone’s flaws or are disapproving of someone’s behaviour, undoubtedly with the expectation that it will be received constructively.

It’s not always that you might have to change your usage of words to not sound hurting or demeaning a person’s character. Saying whatever it is that you are saying in a soft and gentle tone will make them worthy of creating a long-lasting impact.

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Annapoorani Barani
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Annapoorani Barani

Annapoorani Barani is a management graduate from NMIMS Mumbai. She is passionate about discovering the hidden nuances of human nature and enjoys singing and fitness. She can be reached at annu199@gmail.com