Thursday, April 27, 2006

Scume and Wha-ev - Modern Communication Being Squeezed Into Modern Confusion

I'm going to break a little from sharing information this week. This article's going to be about illuminating what I see as a destructive trend in modern communication.

You've probably heard this snag in conversation before. You might have even heard it in a presentation. It likely left you puzzled, wondering what was said, losing track of what's being said right then while you spend time thinking about what you didn't understand.

I'm talking about what I call "WordMush."

WordMush is when two or more words are spoken so quickly, they smoosh together. Sometimes parts of words are chopped off in the process. For example, take the two Mushed Words in the title. I heard both of those in conversations in the past week.

WordMush Growing in the Wild!
Last Thursday I went for a brief walk downtown, savoring the cool air and clear afternoon sky we'd suddenly been graced with. I walked by a few local shops, with people coming in and out as usual. One portly man came out of the shop on my right, sporting a new white shirt, and immediately turned to his left. We brushed up against one another in passing. He mumbled, "scume" and skittered down the sidewalk.

I stopped. I had to; I didn't understand what he'd said. It took me several seconds to reason out that he'd mushed "Excuse me" together in his hurry.

Was he in a rush? I glanced back. No, he was now walking casually. He was rushed only in language.

The second WordMush I heard earlier Wednesday afternoon. I was in a Starbucks, waiting for two colleagues to arrive for our Power Coffee Meeting. I overheard one of the cashiers talking to a friend about another person she knew. This person had taken to using "Wha-ev," in conversation. The cashier found it, of all things, funny.

WordMush Damages Our Most Valuable Skill
Let me ask you this. What's the #1 most valued skill in modern business? What's written on virtually every job posting, such a common value that it's virtually taken for granted?
Good communication skills.

Tell me, what kind of communication skills are we cultivating in our society when basic conversation is riddled with mushed-up nonsense words like "scume" and "Wha-ev?"

We're in so much of a rush that we're corrupting our own basic language. Cellphone minutes, email timeframes, sales turnarounds, constant pressure to do more in less time. We're shaving nanoseconds off the one thing no one should EVER sacrifice - clarity in how we communicate our wants & needs to others.

What's Happening, And Why It Hurts
Why am I making such a big deal about something as miniscule as a couple of smooshed-together words? It's because of what the progression, if it's left alone, will lead to.

I've seen no reason to think it's slowing down (no pun intended). So what's going to happen as this trend continues? People will talk faster and faster, further breaking down words and ideas in the wake of Getting It Out Faster. Attention spans will become more fractured than ever. Writing will suffer, because people won't be able to slow down those precious seconds needed for a central idea to form.

We like to think faster is better. Faster is more productive. The problem is that faster, when it comes to communicating, turns communication into confusion.

A Breath Is All That's Needed
Do you inadvertently contribute to WordMush? (I'm pretty sure that the problem is largely because people don't know they do it.) If so, or even if you're not sure, try paying attention to your breathing the next time you're talking with someone. If you're racing to get a sentence finished (before the other person can have a chance to butt in) take an extra breath.

Did you know professional speakers build breathing into their speeches? "With all this in mind, let's go over the solution. " They know how valuable a brief pause, an instant of silence, is to their performance. Try it in your conversations. You'll eliminate WordMush, be much easier to understand, and who knows? Your words might even have a greater impact WHILE you're taking a breath.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home