You have probably heard the saying, “It is not what you say, but how you say it.” Today, I am here to tell you, it is what you say, just as much as how you say it. Both of these factors are decisive in expressing yourself effectively and persuasively.
When we discuss what we say, let’s begin with vocabulary. Now, there is cause for concern here. The significance of language is fundamental to every interaction in our daily lives. We use language to enlighten the people around us of how we feel, what we desire and how we understand the world around us.
In many ways, language defines us. The words we do not say restrict us from conveying our thoughts immaculately, while the words we do not know play an integral part in how others perceive us.
The reason why there is a critical cause for alarm here is because numbers tend to indicate that our vocabulary is shrinking. If you can identify the meaning of the word ‘prospered’ within a passage, it is likely your vocabulary is much richer than the average American high school graduate.
Moreover, according to a BBC News Magazine report from 2009, the average adult knows about 35,000 to 50,000 words, yet teenagers are only using half as many words as people who are 10 to 20 years older than they are. The study also found that a very small number of words were taking up a significant percentage of the teenagers’ speech. It is frustrating when we cannot express our emotions, our ideas, our aspirations, and our fears articulately. It is even more frustrating when we cannot make ourselves understood at all.
Let me give you a couple of good habits to expand your vocabulary. It is an ongoing development and there are always new words to learn, regardless of whatever language you speak. Here are two simple, yet, powerful ways of doing this:
Exposure to reading has a major impact on a person’s vocabulary. Reading is a marvellous way of encountering new words. Reading also helps resuscitate the words we already know and find new ways to use them.
I have learnt so many words from doing crosswords. In fact, I send myself to sleep doing crosswords. There are apps you can get now for smart phones (a word a day) which will present to you a new word every day for your delectation and enjoyment.
Now that we have covered the elaboration of our vocabulary, let me suggest that there are some words that are better avoided, or at least, words that can ring alarm bells if they start to emerge in your speech. Here are the danger words that are better left excluded from your dialogue.
The word ‘should’ tends to carry judgment. For instance, when you use it in sentences like, “you should have done this”, or, “I should have known”, you are expressing judgment towards someone or yourself, respectively. A better word to use instead of should is “shall”.
It is the weaker alternative to should. Often used in sentences like, “I could do that”, it evinces a lack of commitment. Use the word can instead.
Are you going to come out tonight? Well, I’ll try. Are you going to finish your exam tomorrow? I’ll try. Try is a word that suggests we are not really dedicated. Remember the words of Yoda in Star Wars: “There is not TRY. There is only DO or NOT DO.” There is a great deal of truth in that statement.
If you begin to use should, could and maybe habitually, you may find there is an issue with your devotion in language to execute.
5) You made me.
When we use the phrase ‘you made me’ we are not taking responsibility for our emotions. For example, “When you did that, I felt angry” is a rather clearer way of stating the same idea and taking responsibility for the “I felt” part. It was me who did the feeling. You did the doing, and I did the feeling. Those are two separate things. The moment I separate those two, I start to take more control of my reactions and I am in a more powerful place.
6) Always, Never, Nobody, Everybody.
These are words that are termed inflammatories or maximizers. When incorporated into conversations, these words insinuate the idea that you are making generalizations.
There is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job.
Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.