Monday, January 13, 2014

Think Before and While You Speak

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about "Bambi" and wondering why the lesson Thumper got is not in practice around the world. Well, my age may be showing a bit but he was told that "if you don't have anything nice to say then you shouldn't say anything at all."

Somewhere along the way we were told to treat others the way that we wanted to be treated. We have all been guilty of doing just the opposite of both of these. Whether intentional or not, someone was on the receiving end of our actions whether they deserved to be or not. We were often told to think before we spoke; whether we did or not was a different story.
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me"
It was supposed to make us feel better if someone picked on us. Did it really work? This is where thinking before you speak and while you are speaking comes in. The kid with the lisp and the one that mispronounces every other word is picked on. So is the kid with the 'funny' accent that speaks in the dialect they are most comfortable with.

Remember Tweety Bird? "I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat"

The tiny yellow bird with the speech impediment was adorable. When it comes to people with an inability to enunciate and properly pronounce the letters to make up the word, it's not so cute. It's a handicap. Making fun of it is not appropriate.

Learning to Speak

The first words a child speaks are typically "mama" or "dadda" and we get excited even when it's a mispronounced because the baby is talking. Then, there are the children that do not speak at all, or when they do it is something to the effect of "call now" or "it's my money and I want it now." No they are not giving an instruction, it is an echo. The technical term is echolalia. Simply put: The child is a parrot. They simply repeat what they hear whether it means anything to them or not.

In a typical setting, a child learns to speak by hearing others. Idiosyncrasies in speech are picked up faster than the words and phrases that are grammatically correct and articulated properly. In small communities where everyone speaks the same way, it goes unnoticed. It is not until exposure to a new culture that the idiosyncrasies stick out like a sore thumb.

Think about it.

When you speak, especially to young children learning to talk, it is important that you properly pronounce words. While young children will not know anything other than what they hear for the first few years those mispronunciations and odd phrasings that are native to the environment are natural to them. It is not until they begin school that they hear something different and notice they speak differently. When the accent is the same, the words are close enough in approximation that everyone knows what is being said, and there isn't anything said about the odd pronunciation.

Body Language and Tone

Somewhere along the way, the interpretation of tone and body language comes into play. The stance and tone taken when the words are spoken change the meaning for the one hearing them. The funny thing about tone of voice and body language is that the volume level does not have to change. The words can still come off hateful, condescending, judgmental or threatening. 

Remember that tone your mother got when she used your full name and you knew that you might not sit down for a week? She didn't have to move, and her teeth were clenched. You jumped. 

Amusing or Not

Jokes are intended to be funny, at least that's what we were taught. At the expense of others they are often hateful. It is only a joke if everyone is laughing; the one that is the butt of the joke is generally unamused. They claim imitation is the truest form of flattery. Is it? Does the one whose accent you are imitating, and badly I might add, find it amusing?

Chances are: If they have a blank stare, they do not. Did you ever consider they might have spent years dreading things because the way they spoke made them the butt of the joke? Did you ever stop to wonder if they were self-conscious about it? They may be more able to speak appropriately but find those easier to say and find comfort in them since they are part of their heritage. 

Think and Think Again

It is true that you do not truly know someone until you have been where they have. Rants typically begin with a statement and the words following are thought to be connected to the original statement, especially when nothing else is brought into play before the rant begins.

Think about what you say and how you say it. You never know when you could make or break someone's day whether intentional or not.

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