I continue to be fascinated by language. Especially brief bursts – words and phrases, strung together that can be interpreted in endless ways. Knowing the source, considering the context IS essential because often, the words themselves are bare and lacking. What’s the tone and intent? The distinction between supportive and dismissive can be subtle.
In conversations, we can typically tease out the nuances. Friendly or fierce? Helpful or harried? Short messages – whether they’re missiles that come via text or an email (or a blog post!) can be hastily written. Tone, intent, context. They matter.
“Do what you’ve got to do” is such a phrase. This week, those six words in a text exchange started a relationship tussle for a couple I know and it took them several days to unpack the hurt.
Why? “Do what you’ve got to do” is tricky. Is it an endorsement? Go forth – with my blessing? Hard to say. Offered with a nod and a smile, it might convey just that. I’m supportive. You’ve got this.
Offered with a shrug and a prickly ‘I don’t care’ overtone, it’s dismissive. A conversation closer for sure and that’s how the receiver took the message. “I don’t matter” she thought. Channeling past hurt because she was tired, she spiced up the intent and added tone to the text message that wasn’t intended.
How are they now? All is well. Just a blip for them – all smoothed over. Me? It gave me something else to ponder. Words matter. Communication clarity. We’re all a work-in-progress, eh?