It’s not what you said it’s how you said it

It’s not what you said it’s how you said it

Last night my partner and I had dinner at a friend’s place, and after with self-made apple crumble in hand, we sat down to play overcooked – a fun PlayStation game for kids and adults alike as we found out.

The premise of the game is straightforward. Four players cook together as a team, serving up the orders displayed in the top left corner. One person runs vegetables to and fro, another cuts vegetables and cooks them, while the third person plates and serves the food, and the last person does the dishes, natural right?

You would be wrong to think that though chaos quickly ensued, and voices grew louder. I need this I need that, where are the plates! The runner suddenly was cutting vegetables, whereas the person who should be cooking is cleaning dishes and no one is noticing that the pasta is cooking over. That will turn into a loss of points later.

After the game, Eric remained cross over what Alex had said to him during the game. Alex, of course, did not mean to make Eric feel bad, Alex intended to score points and to help Eric in the kitchen as a team.

But when Eric kept hearing, "come on, man, what’s going on it’s not that hard! I can’t cook if I don’t have any mushrooms, just stop panicking" he became irritated.

Nothing particularly offensive in this statement right, Alex can’t cook without mushrooms, and he wishes that Eric would get his head into the game and not panic so much.

But that’s is not what Eric heard. Eric heard that he is stupid for not getting how the game works, and if he wasn’t already frustrated enough by the lack of his hand-eye coordination that made playing the game confusing, Alex’s condescension broke the straw on the camels back.

‘I can’t think when you’re yelling at me’ Eric snapped after some time. Alex replied  "you don’t need to think just play the game as it flows" which drove Eric even madder and was both funny and tragic to watch.

‘Like I’m some idiot, it’s not my fault the buttons are confusing’.

Pause it right here for a moment. What did Eric just do? – just like this, Eric introduced the idea of blame. And now, we were off to the races. The conversation between the team had shifted from wanting to win and score points to who is at fault.

Isn’t that what we all do as well sometimes, giving meaning to what others say and do without being mindful about it? Alex’s didn’t mean to make Eric feel bad; they were on the same team, Alex wanted to help Eric by pointing out his need, which was support, a healthy flow of mushrooms supply, in this case, not to make Eric feel dejected.

Maybe it had more to do with how Alex spoke to Eric? The game itself you must know, becomes intense quickly and Alex, feeling stressed has his body go into stress mode, a higher heart rate and blood pressure, accompanied by long exhale’s that say I’m under pressure.

He thinks fast, acts fast, and speaks quickly, his voice is heavier and his body more commanding, it’s how Alex responds to stress, and I presume this is how most of us react to stress.

But Eric, instead of realising where Alex is coming from and what he is trying to say, Eric only paid attention to the words and unconsciously reacted to Alex’s tense energy, which was pressured and challenged.

He interpreted Alex’s energy as authoritarian, saying you are not good enough at playing a children’s game. Eric created the idea of blame to avoid feeling small or incapable and to deflect this feeling. Eric unconsciously made the situation about himself. And that is what we often also do, do we not? But why do we do this?

We base how we think about ourselves on how others make us feel based on how they behave. We pick the energy of tone, the feel of body-language and interpret this as if it is about us. Mostly, it is what is alive in the other person. The non-verbal/emotional signals overpower our thinking and perception of what is being communicated.

So the saying, “it’s not what you said it’s how you said it” is closer to the truth than we might think. As a song- lyric takes on different meanings for you depending on what music accompanies them, so will your words take on different meanings depending on your pitch, pace and body posture.

The subliminal conversation of tone and body language sends up to 90 per cent of your message. Avoid misinterpretations and help others to interpret what you say right. Become mindful of what energy your words carry as much as you want to consider the words you say and communicate better. Test it for yourself tomorrow and chose the emotional melody you would like to insert into the conversation and drive the feeling forward. See what happens, the results might surprise you!