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Subtle messages we send

There are times when we do not realise what we are saying is contributing to poor communication. We can use words that add meaning into sentences that can sound sarcastic, or demeaning. They modify what we are trying to say that can unintentionally or intentionally annoy and attack others. Some words to watch out for include:
Certainly - e.g. you certainly like your food - can mean: you eat too much

Only - e.g. it is only a small difference - can mean: there is something wrong with you to worry about that

Merely - e.g. I was merely trying to help - can mean: there is something wrong with you for getting upset

Naturally - e.g. naturally you understand the reasons for this - can mean: there is something wrong if you do not understand the reasons

Now - e.g. now what is going on - can mean: I do not like what is going on

Lately - e.g. lately I have noticed - can mean: I have been paying close attention

Sure - e.g. you sure have been working hard - can mean: I think you have been working too hard

Just - e.g. I was just being honest - can mean: there is something wrong with you if you cannot accept honest feedback

Still - e.g your still working on that - can mean: you should have been finished that by now

When we use modifiers like these it is called a metamessage. There is a message within a message. This will confuse the message and people can take what you are saying the wrong way. It is important to really say what you mean without confusing things.

List of modifiers from Messages: The Communication Skills Book (1993) by M. McKay, M Davis & P Fanning page 74

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