It’s Not What You Say, But How You Say It

· April 13, 2016

In “The Little Prince” it says that “language is the source of all misunderstandings.” It’s a very wise phrase if we take into account that it’s not at all easy to transform our thoughts into words and express them in a way that our speaker can understand.

In fact, our messages are never 100% understood. If someone says, for example, “I’m in love,” they’re referring to a reality that is very difficult for another person to truly understand.

“I’m in love” can be a synonym for being excited, having formed a very close bond with your partner, or simply feeling very attracted to another person. We would have to know someone very well to know what they mean when they say “I’m in love.”

“No matter what you think, I think it’s best to say it with the right words.”
-William Shakespeare-

On the other hand, words aren’t the only source of communication, because they are accompanied by attitudes, gestures, and postures. You can say something with your tongue and something completely different with your tone, gaze and general attitude. Thus, learning how to communicate our thoughts is a true art form.

What you say…woman with white rose inside

The biggest challenge when it comes to communication arises when we talk about our inner world. Especially about our feelings, emotions or perceptions. Besides the fact that it’s not easy to put all of that into words, it’s impossible to ignore the response we expect from our listener. In order to communicate something, we always take into account the reaction we produce in our listener.

We don’t communicate solely to transmit information, instead we mainly seek to have an effect on our listeners. We want to be believed, admired, validated and understood.


But sometimes we also seek to be feared or obeyed. Or we want them to let us impose ourselves or for them to feel hurt or harmed. Sometimes we’re conscious of this and sometimes we’re not. As strange as it may seem, sometimes our goal when we communicate is to create confusion. Not for us to be understood, but rather for people to stop understanding us.

What’s behind what you say?

It’s precisely the intention that defines the essence of each message. You can compliment someone in order to recognize their virtues, but you can also compliment someone in order to make them more vulnerable to some kind of manipulation that you want to put into play.

That intention, however, many times is not clear even to ourselves. We think that our objective is to “make someone understand their mistake,” but we haven’t considered the possibility that the other person might be right.

We think that the purpose is to strip our feelings raw, but we ignore the fact that very deep down what we’re really seeking is compassion and reaffirmation. And if we don’t obtain them, we’re sure that they didn’t understand a single word of what we said.

Beyond the words you say

woman with birds in hair

Human communication is a complex process, that also has some degree of error. It doesn’t only depend on the words that we use to say things (though these are very important), but also of an innumerable amount of external factors.

You have to take into account the moment, place and the listener. But mainly, there has to be a great effort put into making sure that we’re really saying what we want to say. Human beings are constantly communicating. With the expressions on our face, the way we dress, the way we walk, our gaze and many other ways.

A good part of our messages are released unconsciously. When we say that someone gives us a bad vibe, it’s because they have communicated with their gestures and attitudes that they are apparently not trustworthy. The same applies in reverse. Those things we communicate constantly about ourselves form the precedent for constructive, destructive or neutral bonds.

Communicating through affection

When it comes to the important bonds in our lives, the topic of communication becomes more relevant. Close bonds are filled with communicative elements. Words, silences, stares, everything has a meaning.

That’s when it becomes more important than ever for us to generate mechanisms so that messages may flow in a healthy manner. In order to achieve this, it’s important to eradicate certain communication habits and nurture others.

Basically, it’s important to learn how to communicate with affection. Alluding to what we feel, as clearly as possible and avoiding the disastrous habit of referring to what the other person feels. How do you know what someone else feels, if surely you don’t even quite know what you feel yourself?

Aggressive communication always leaves deep wounds. The only companions of anger must be silence and pauses. If not, you’re likely to deface what you really meant to say.

couple in the kitchen

Good communication requires serenity and relevance. Find the appropriate time, place and mood to approach difficult issues. Let your affections flow spontaneously when you are calm and open to others.

In fact, what hinders your communication is not what you say, but how you say it. And what enriches an important bond is having the delicacy to choose the best ways to tell ourselves and others what we feel and think.