Children learning to speak sometimes prefer to use grunts and hand gestures to indicate their wants and needs. They don’t know the right words for things and can get frustrated. Choosing to simplify they take the easy route to communicate. If you are a parent who has raised a child – you may have at some point said, or heard someone else say, “Use your words…” to get the child to try harder to say what it is they want.
I thought about this phrase “Use your words” for the first time while my mother and father were visiting. After they left, I dawned on me that I would reply to their questions with sounds like, “I dunno… grumble grumble” or “So I just got to the point where I was like, ‘Whatever’” or “Mumble mumble mumble..” I had stopped trying to communicate at the point where I would get frustrated and felt that my thoughts were just complaints or something that would take too much time to put into words.
The next day I traveled to the NASPA Tech Conference in Newport, Rhode Island. While there, a second incident occurred which gave me pause again. During the conference I had the chance to meet a number of folks for the first time IRL (in real life) after reading their tweets for the last 3 weeks to 2 years. One of those individuals is, let’s say, internet famous. You know what I mean. The type of person that lots of folks want to meet and chat with because they have high Klout and are considered an expert in their field. I wasn’t exactly avoiding this person, but was waiting for the right moment to introduce myself officially. I totally bungled it. In my effort to make the meeting casual, I made it awkward and didn’t “use my words”. Instead of saying, “Awesome, so we’re fist bumping now?” after a parting fist bump with said person and a witness….I said, “Ok. Whatever. Bye!” The result was a well thought out DM (direct message) via Twitter to this person to explain myself. Two other awkward interactions later – I now owe this person another pair of DMs. All because I didn’t use my words.
Nick Swardson, a comedian whose website I used to maintain, is the worst about this. Here’s a line from his stand-up act:
And uh I don’t know why I went to school I say like 5 words. I literally just wasted all that time I literally say like 5 words I say dude, whatever, f***, retarded, and gay like 10,000 times a day.*
As I was formulating this post in my mind this morning, an interesting article popped up on my Twitter feed. “Twitter Is Not the Enemy of the English Language”. I thought about how important it is to “Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say”, and how I personally feel like Twitter is the ultimate challenge. I love condensing thoughts into 140 characters. Every Tweet is like a puzzle. I feel I not only use language to best express myself at those moments, but also feel like I’ve said it in an easy to understand, brief way that I sometimes cannot do in person.
So as I move on from here, I have decided to pay attention to the responses coming out of my mouth (thoughts from my cranium) and I’m going make sure that if I don’t feel like I can adequately explain myself, or feel embarrassed about my response – that I’ll take even longer to consider what I’m about to say. Easier said then done to someone who can’t even rhyme on the spot…but it’s the being aware that matters. Use your words – say what you mean – mean what you say – say what you have to say proudly – don’t be afraid to give a strong voice to your thoughts.
*This quote is being used because I was reminded of this stand-up act while thinking about my own lack of word usage. I do not endorse the obviously non-PC terms that Nick uses on a daily basis, although we did say “retarded” alot in the 80′s.