How People Speak Differently

Aug 3 11:34 2008 Carmen Lynne Print This Article

Statistics show that the words you say contribute only a very small percent to the whole process of effective communication. Things like tonality, facial expressions and body language are also being processed on a subconscious level.

A few years ago it was demonstrated to me how Americans and English people really are “divided by a common language”,Guest Posting although this was more of a cultural divide than an issue of language itself.


I had booked a band and was excited about having them play in my club. The lead singer of the band was one of my favorites and in my opinion the band was nothing much without him. I had booked the band with the manager, who was a hard-nosed businessman from New York. This was only a year or so after I had moved to the States and I was a little innocent in the way things worked over here.


When the manager told me – only a few days before the scheduled event – that the lead singer had now left the band and a girl singer I’d never heard of would be replacing him, I was very disappointed. It was my intention to communicate my disappointment to the manager, and also to let him know that I didn’t want to book the band without the lead singer I loved. However, I completely failed to convey what I intended. In my typical English “polite” way, I skirted around the subject and hinted that without the original singer our deal was now off. But I didn’t come right out and say as much, feeling that would be rude and offensive.


On the day of the gig, the band showed up, minus singer. The manager was very angry with me when I told him that the gig had been canceled, as he had not realized the import of my words. It would have been much better if I had just said, “The deal is off” in no uncertain terms. So my efforts to be polite and cooperative totally backfired.


In the end, we managed to come up with an agreement that suited everybody and represented a win/win. But I found the whole experience interesting, as it taught me that here in America it’s more polite to be direct.


In England, Americans are regarded as rather vulgar, loud and aggressive. That is because in England, directness is considered rude and offensive, whereas in America it’s simply straightforward plain dealing.


This could be seen as an example of speaking literally or inferentially. Americans are taught to speak literally and English people are taught to speak inferentially. With a literal statement, the statement is as it sounds. With an inferential statement, the listener is meant to understand the subtext behind the words, which may be very different. Consider the English sense of humor, for example, which is well known for irony. Irony is in its essence inferential. So when an English person wishes to be ironic, they may say something which is patently untrue – such as “the earth is flat” or “President Bush is a smart cookie” – with an air of veracity, in order to provoke an amused response. This could lead to problems if the listener tends to take things literally, taking the words at face value without realizing that there even is any subtext behind them.


What does all this have to do with me? you might say. I believe it can enhance our communication if we all realize that different people have different communication styles, as well as different listening styles. America is a melting pot of many different ethnic types and races, who’ve all come from different cultures – either generations ago or more recently. And so, it can only benefit everybody if we make an effort to understand each other better. Neither inferential nor literal is right or wrong, it just is.


I’ve had to adapt my communication style to fit with American directness, in order to be understood. Because communicating with people effectively is about a lot more than just the words you speak.


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Carmen Lynne
Carmen Lynne

Carmen Lynne – July 2008

Positive Transformation Hypnotherapy

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