Thoughts On Interpretation

The written word has a great flaw in communication. Tone.

Periscope has been great for this, for instance now I know what some people’s voices are like, I read their tweets and automatically hear them. With many people whose voice I don’t know, I simply read it in the voice I would use. Which means I’m naturally well disposed to what they say.

Sometimes you’ll read someone’s words in the voice of someone you like, or someone who might normally have those sorts of discussions with you, someone you feel secure having them. It’s a natural defence mechanism against danger, but with the written word, it can lead to increased risk: Think of those “If you send me £100 I can release the £30m my former finance minister brother has stored away…” spam emails. Read them in the voice of a con artist, and you’d never consider it. Read it as if it’s from someone you know cares for you, and suddenly you’re more trusting (I hope you still wouldn’t send the money, though. You’re not an idiot).

More, it’s easy to interpret the written word in the tone you think you’d expect: Angry looking tweets get an angry tone. Sexy tweets, a sexy tone. It isn’t surprising that I’d read them influenced by my own expectations of that tweeter.

This gets more interesting when the communication is one-on-one:

We begin to read messages in the voice we know, but we overlay our expectations and our desires. If we think of that person in a good light, whether rightly or because they’ve set out to deceive us, we’ll read their messages in a positive way.

Quite often the way you read a message shows you more about how you see yourself, than how the other person sees you. If we know we’ve treated them badly and deserve their scorn, we’ll read messages through that filter, as scornful because that’s what we feel we ought to expect, and might inexplicably become defensive or feel hurt. By contrast if we’ve done nothing that any reasonable person could be angry about, we don’t read incoming messages from them as angry, but recognise it as supportive.

How we expect people to talk to us tells us a lot about how we feel about ourselves.

Listen carefully.

Not surprisingly, if you both trust each other and know that everything is said with love and kindness, the problem never arises.

This is one of the reasons why I tried the Filth And Erotica Radio: reading out blog posts in my own voice – in the rhythms and tones that I wrote them. I wanted people to hear them as I did. Having The Girl read the words she’s read was part of that: You hear the stories the way we do.

© Charles Rochester 2015


2 thoughts on “Thoughts On Interpretation

  1. I have a terrible temper and when I’m in a bad mood at work I tend to read emails that I find stupid and upsetting in a tone that sounds like the person writing to me is trying to be an asshole. My friend gets mad at me and tells me to calm down and read things like a normal person and I won’t be so bothered.

    I like hearing people’s voices. I communicate so much via written word that I miss hearing tone and a person’s cadence and accent and the way they stress things. It’s interesting.

  2. Pingback: Sinful Sunday 15 – Empty Bed | Filth & Erotica

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