Thursday, October 31, 2013

Because of a Poor Choice of Words, Guest on the “Diane Rehm Show” Came Across as a Scold

Avoid using the phrase “as I told you…” unless you absolutely must. Why? Because, unless the words are accompanied by friendly and pleasing nonverbals, you can come across like a scold!  Here is a specific example:

During the October 1, 2013, edition of the “Diane Rehm Show,” which was about the shrinking population of the monarch butterfly, as guest panelist Tamie DeWitt (an invertebrate biologist and a “monarch expert”) was explaining how her team catches monarchs, she added: “It’s a lot easier than you think because as I told you before, these monarchs are very focused on getting to Mexico.” [This sentence occurs at 11:13:15 in the transcript.]

Now, I have no doubt that Tamie DeWitt is as endearing and pleasing a personality as is the subject of her pursuits--i.e., monarch butterflies--and I am sure she meant to respond in a most friendly and pleasing manner. But the words “as I told you before,” compounded by her relatively strong voice and rapid speech, made Ms. DeWitt sound like a scold. To us radio listeners, who couldn’t see any disarming or mitigating facial expression and other body language (if there were any), she came across—at that precise moment—as one who was admonishing or at least mildly reprimanding the person asking the questions, host Diane Rehm.

So, how else could Ms. DeWitt have worded her response? Well, how about something like this: “As I was saying earlier…” or “As I indicated earlier….” In some situations, one could use an even humbler alternative: “As I was suggesting earlier...”

Bottom line: Unless you are using appropriately friendly and endearing body language or you really mean to chide someone (or express annoyance or irritation), it’s best to avoid using the word “told” as in “As I told you….”

© Copyright 2013  V. J. Singal

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