Communication to me is less about the grammar or spelling and more so about presenting your thoughts in a fashion the audience can receive. My rule of thumb is: If your audience doesn’t have to hear/read it more than once to grasp an impression of the idea, you’ve expressed yourself just fine 👍🏾.
Thank goodness, I don’t have any close friends who are strict about the English language. A casual text message from me would likely lead to cardiac arrest.
However, as a student aiming for success, I do recognize that context plays a huge part in communicating with others. I do not speak like how I text and I would almost never converse with a professor or a job interviewer the same way I talk to my close buddies.
A typical day for me has me constantly adjusting the way I express myself as the setting changes. Around students I am not familiar with, I tend to portray a stern, mature but polite demeanor. Using formal language and tone, I can turn the most causal of conversations into a high tension, uncomfortable exchange in which blinking and breathing is forbidden. I try to come off as firm at the cost of seeming unapproachable and when I am approached, its typically for school related issues.
Yet, surprisingly, I have made good friends whom have endured past their initial impressions of me.
It is around my close friends that my character layers begin to peel away. What was an unprecedented formal gentleman in the form of an everyday student becomes an easily excited man-child. My dry and unwelcoming approach to communicating with my peers is replaced with humor, wittiness and just a (over)dose of sarcasm. While I still refrain from slang, my tone and word choice make for a much more enjoyable company as I speak about movies, music, video games and anime. Ironically, although I avoid using slang, at heart I am a sailor at sea. My mouth is as foul as they come and profanity rolls of the tongue. It can be quite funny seeing the expressions of shock and awe my saint of a boss at work makes when I slip profane language into chit-chats with a friendly co-worker.
Something I avoid telling the world is that I do cold calling on behalf of the University of Waterloo’s fund raising team. It is a student job but a job nonetheless and so I always bring some level of formal self. Still, I am surrounded by my peers throughout a work shift and a lot of them I consider to be my friends… 🤔
This has led me to developing a semi-informal approach to addressing my colleagues.
It goes without saying, once I am on a call representing the University of Waterloo; a level of professionalism is required. I primarily contact alumni and parents of current students for donations. So, I must be prepared to connect on a personal level with a wide range of personalities. Individuals range from Alumni boastfully speaking of the remarkable things the degree they earned in the 60’s has brought them, to cautious parents who need me to meticulously choose my words so I do not perpetuate their initial thoughts of my call being a scam or their child needing immediate attention. My vocabulary (and patience) is tested as I try to use a silver tongue to persuade people into donating to faculties and student initiatives.
Once I arrive home from work or school, my day is over. I look forward receiving a family call or I turn on my Xbox and join a voice chat with friends I’ve left behind in my home country, The Bahamas.
The Bahamian in me is set free.
(“Bui, Had Go” translates to “hey, hows it going?” “Bui” is a beautiful word whose meaning is defined by context and tone of voice.)
Well, slowly set free. I spend most of the day hiding my native dialect and so it can take a moment or two to warm up to the task. I’ve even had my youngest brother laugh at me for “speaking so proper” as I gradually eased into the mood. Once I have found that zone, I no longer think before I speak and I say what comes natural. With my friends and family back home, there is no need to refrain from saying things that does not align with the politically correct. In casual settings, my people avoid wordy sentence structures and because our dialect depends a tad bit on tone, we aim to create simple, short but lively and exaggerated statements. Conversations tend to be fun and full of energy which contrasts greatly with the way I speak to people here in Waterloo.
I think I’ve mastered the art of juggling, if I do say so myself.