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Multilinguals Experience Personality Change When Using Different Languages

Multilinguals Experience Personality Change When Using Different Languages

People who are bilingual have been a source of fascination for years, with various studies revealing that they are more accepting, tolerant and open-minded than others. The far-reaching impact of multilingualism does not end there, however, with recent research suggesting that the behaviour and outlook of bilinguals also changes according to the language that they use at any given time.

Between 2001 and 2003, linguists Jean-Marc Dawaele and Aneta Pavlenko surveyed more than one thousand bilinguals on the subject of whether they feel like a different person when they speak different languages. Incredibly, nearly two-thirds confirmed that they did, while the majority of respondents also emphasise different personality traits and express alternative emotions depending on their choice of language.

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How does our personalities change when using alternative languages

While there is plenty of research to support these findings, how do these personality changes manifest themselves? In one of the more recent essays published on the subject, New Republic editor Noam Scheiber revealed that he stopped speaking only in Hebrew to his three-year older due to the impact that it had on his persona. Scheiber claimed that his personality became far colder and less articulate when speaking in Hebrew, while communicating in English brought out his natural sensibility, patience and a greater level of empathy.

In a further study completed back in 1964, psychologist Susan Ervin set out to explore the different ways through which bilinguals shared the same story in different languages. Using 64 respondents who were fluent in both French and English, Ervin presented what is known as the Thematic Apperception Test to share a series of illustrations. Spanning two separate sessions that were hosted in French and English, respondents were asked to create a compelling story based on the images that they had seen.

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Upon analysis, several topical differences came to the fore. The English narratives featured physical aggression and female accomplishment as central themes, for example, while those in French were more likely to include verbal aggression towards peers and guilt.

With English as a central theme in both of these examples, it is interesting to note the alternative perceptions that emerge depending on the speaker. While the use of English brought out traits such as patience and empathy in one instance, for example, it solicited physical and verbal aggression in another. One explanation for these variable outlooks could be the context in which each dialect was learned, with one multilingual claiming that she was friendlier and made friends more easily in her second language (which she learned at an older age and when her social skills were more advanced).

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As a multilingual, why does your personality change?

With this in mind, the context in which languages are learned solicits alternative emotions and changes our outlook, behaviour and levels of self-perception. Michael J. Koven’s body of research from also 1998 reaffirms this, with a group of French and Portuguese bilinguals emphasising different personality traits and behaviours depending on their choice of language. This suggests that the age at which languages are learned also have an impact, depending on the level of our cognitive development at the time when we become multilingual and fluent in alternative dialects.

On a final note, the cultural aspects that are deeply-rooted in language may also impact on the personalities of bilinguals. Our cultural identity has a huge bearing on how we learn and the values that we hold dear, but those who are bilingual are likely to have travelled and absorbed alternative cultures and lifestyles. This will directly change their outlook and challenge their existing values, potentially creating an altered personality that manifests itself in numerous different ways.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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