Archives for posts with tag: so what?

To follow up on my example analysis of repetition in conversation from last month, I would like to offer a few insights into how we might put this awareness to use:

In developing communications or marketing strategies, repetition of your consumers own language (collected through interviews, surveys, or even online product reviews)  is a simple and effective way of demonstrating solidarity with and an understanding of them. Using language created by the consumers themselves to describe or relate to a product not only provides a springboard from which to write inspiring copy, but an accurate representation of how the average consumer understands your product as well.

We’ve all heard from Dating Tips 101 that when your love interest repeats your name in conversation, that’s definitely a good sign. The same effect of demonstrating interest and solidarity operates on a more subtle level in interaction when we repeat forms and structures already used by our conversation partners. As in the example I discussed last month, the repetition of a simple adjective not only demonstrates agreement, but expresses attention and support between parties.

Repetition is an endlessly fascinating and useful feature of language in terms of growing relationships. Understanding its effects can transform your interpersonal involvement strategies and help sculpt personalized marketing plans for your target audience – all you have to do is listen like a Linguist!


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.

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