Advertising
Advertising

5 Unexpected Ways Punctuation Affects Our Relationships That You Aren’t Aware Of

5 Unexpected Ways Punctuation Affects Our Relationships That You Aren’t Aware Of

How can something like punctuation affect your relationships?

Punctuation may be having more of an impact on your relationships now than at any previous point in human history.

At no other time have we communicated on such a broad scale through written communication.

When you combine emails, instant messaging, online chatting, and text messaging, not to mention snail mail, post cards, and handwritten notes, the communication of most of your thoughts comes in writing.

Punctuation marks have developed to help capture the meaning conveyed through the inflection of the voice. Without your voice to accompany the text, sometimes it can be difficult to understand the intended meaning. Because you are not there to witness the impact of your words and clarify any miscommunication, something as simple as punctuation may greatly impact how people “see” you.

We’re not going to get bogged down in rules here.  If you want grammar lessons, look elsewhere.  And you should, because grammar mistakes can demolish what you’re trying to say.

For now, let’s look at some common punctuation habits that could be affecting your relationships that you aren’t aware of. By breaking these bad habits, you can communicate better with others and improve your relationships.

1. Are your parentheses passive-aggressive?

When I taught English, my students learned that parentheses convey ideas that you would say with your hands cupped around your mouth to share a secret.

Advertising

We’re going to Disney World for vacation again this year (because Mom has to have her way).

Parentheses can come across as tongue-in-cheek, playful, j/k.  If you’re not careful, though, parentheses come out as claws, sharing information that draws blood.

It takes skill to use parenthetical phrases for humor without coming across as passive-aggressive.

If you find that people are taking offense to your asides, try leaving them out, especially in work-related messages.  Here’s a chance to keep your foot out of your mouth.

2. Are you over-using exclamation marks?

Hey! Exclamation marks are great! They tell you that I am excited! Or I am outraged! Or I stubbed my toe!

When you use exclamation marks too frequently, though, you can come across like a chihuahua. While chihuahuas are lovely creatures, I have a difficult time taking them seriously. Chances are, if you overly-use exclamation marks, people have come to think of you as overly-excited, overly-dramatic, or insincere.

Aim to use exclamations when you truly want to convey intense feelings or opinion.  Or, if you truly are that indefatigable spirit or want to be the Cranky Old Man, keep using those exclamations! Just make sure you mean it!

3. Are your texts inadvertently angry?

The period can make you seem pissed. Ben Crair at “The New Republic” suggests that short texts ending in periods can come across as short-tempered.

Advertising

The first rule of punctation is that all sentences should end in a punctuation mark, yes? But maybe this could change for texts.  When I’m speaking, I don’t say “period” at the end of each sentence. There is a tonal implication of the end.

In texting, try using line breaks to convey thoughts without seeming to make statements with finality. Consider the meaning sent by this text:

I’d like to go see a movie.

How does that compare with the meaning sent by this text:

I’d like to go see a movie

Which one means, “I’m open to seeing a movie but I could do whatever” versus “The only thing I want to do is see a movie”?

If your texts are short and direct, but you don’t want to convey that you are short-tempered and bossy, try cutting out periods and use line breaks instead.

4. Are you too passive and unsure?

At the other extreme, some folks can communicate a lack of confidence.

Advertising

The over-use of questions and lack of punctuation signals that you don’t know what you want.  Look at these examples:

After reviewing the report’s findings, option C seems to have more benefits?

get some things from the store for me?

you room should be clean when I get home

People feel secure in relationships that have clear boundaries. If you communicate with too many question marks or consistently without punctuation, people may see you as uncertain.

Assertive communication, however, is clear with no room for confusion.

The report will be on your desk by 3.

When you want to come across with more authority, use periods at the end of non-negotiable statements.

Advertising

5. Are you too aggressive?

WHILE NOT PUNCTUATION, CONSTANT CAPITALIZATION HAS A MAJOR AFFECT ON WRITTEN TEXT.

IT CAN COME ACROSS AS LAZY.  IS IT REALLY THAT DIFFICULT TO TURN OFF THE CAPS LOCK?

IT CAN COME ACROSS AS IGNORANT. DO YOU NOT KNOW THE RULES SO YOU JUST CAPITALIZE EVERYTHING?

IT CAN COME ACROSS AS POMPOUS. DO YOU THINK EVERYTHING YOU HAVE TO SAY IS THAT IMPORTANT?

IT CAN COME ACROSS AS AGGRESSIVE.  I FEEL LIKE I’M BEING YELLED AT.

If you have been a caps lock addict, it’s time to get some help. (Ah, doesn’t that feel better?) You may make some mistakes as you go through withdrawal, but in the long-run you will connect with others.

Are there other ways punctuation can rub you the wrong way? Got any real-life examples?  Please share them in the comments below.

More by this author

21 Ways To Strengthen Struggling Relationships 10 Lessons Everyone Can Learn From These Millionaires and Billionaires Who Started With Nothing 8 Simple Steps to Resolve Any Conflict Like a Zen Master Confused About Your Career? Why That’s Good & What To Do Now 20 Invaluable Keys to Success That You’ve Been Ignoring

Trending in Communication

1 19 Golden Pieces of Relationship Advice From the Experts 2 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know 3 How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship 4 How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future 5 This Is What Happens When You Move Out Of the Comfort Zone

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

More Articles About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next