Linguistics – Language

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The wanting to be right and to be validated is a fundamental human desire. How important it is depends on how happy a person is. 

Emotions form what is called a Tone Scale with Apathy at the bottom and Enthusiasm at the top. Simplified the levels go:

  1. Apathy 
  2. Grief
  3. Fear
  4. Anger
  5. Antagonism
  6. Boredom
  7. Contentment
  8. Conservatism
  9. Cheerfulness
  10. Enthusiasm

When someone proves us wrong we drop our Tone. When someone is at Apathy level they feel that they no longer care if they are wrong or right. The problem is if they drop much below this they no longer feel like living. 

If someone is enthusiastic and they feel proven wrong they may drop down to feeling Cheerful or to being Conservative which is not much of an issue. Anger and Antagonism is the Tone where people will defend being right the most because instinctively they do not want to drop down to Fear (which shows weakness) or Grief (where they may cry).

People are far less likely to be defensive when we use language appropriately and actively listen. It is useful to avoid the following phrases that tend to antagonise people: “What you need to do is . . .” or “You have to learn not to . . . ?” You can use these phrases instead: “I often find it is easier if I . . .?” or “It may be important to . . .?” 

Agreement Frames are also useful because they allow people to feel that they are right or entitled to their point of view without dropping their Tone Scale, while still allowing you to get your point across.  Eg “I agree that _____________(repeating their point of view) AND ______________(adding your point of view), or “I respect the fact that you ____________ AND I___________________, or “I appreciate that ___________AND _____________.

So during this month, you may like to practice Agreement Frames and permissive language structures with those you know to improve communication and happiness while still being able to put forward your own point of view, desires and needs.

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