An important question that I feel is often left unanswered in both academic and journalistic writing is “so what?” – the writer may make interesting and important observations, but unless those findings are connected to the real world by way of actionable solutions or suggestions, they may be forgotten before they have a chance to be useful.

I recently wrote a mini analysis of a discourse interaction between my sister and my mother for this blog. I point out that strategies in discourse may be used to achieve power over or solidarity with another person, or they may be used to show power and solidarity simultaneously (as in the example between my sister and mother).

So what?

The crux of this argument is simply that the strategies an individual uses to communicate an intended relationship message to another, may differ from person to person. Communicative style develops from even the most early interactions we encounter as children and no two styles are the same (though they may be similar). Therefore when we interact with someone who seems to clash with us, or whom we perceive as being passive aggressive or confrontational, it may not be that they are trying to be aggressive, it may just be that our own style does not align with theirs. This does not mean that we should attempt to accommodate the different style to assuage the encounter (although that may be a strategic option), instead it is important to be aware of these stylistic differences and their varying meanings. What I mean may not necessarily be what you hear, and what your listeners hear may not necessarily be what you intended.

Take away: In any situation where you aren’t “getting along” with someone, take a step back. Pay attention to how language is being used and think about its various and polysemous meanings. Maybe your meaning is getting lost in translation.