In Defense of Formality.

Why do I choose my words carefully?  Why do I speak  in a very measured way? When I email why do I write in full sentences?  Why do I wear formal clothes in the workplace?  When I greet people why do I shake them by the hand?  Why do I stand up when a person enters the room?  When I address someone why do I avoid making up a nickname?

The answer is conflict.  There is so much of it in the world that I would like not to add to it.  People do not seem to realise that in being informal in the way they speak and act that they inadvertently cause conflict, whether it be at the relationship/family level, the school or workplace level, the national level or the international level.  If we could all make sure that the words we use are not misunderstood then surely there would be less conflict between people and therefore less unhappiness in the world.  You can say anything you want to people about the most difficult topic, if you say it with politeness and sincerity.

How do you do this?  Well, it is in the word choices you make.  All trees are green but they are not all the same colour.  To be able to describe your feelings using different words, so that they are “neutral” and not containing the colourful language that people seem to like using would be of great help.  The problem is that, even as infants, we learn language from each other,  and if that language is exaggerated or excessive then we may believe that this is the best way to speak.  So, in my view, getting the words accurate to what I mean is important, getting the punctuation correct is important and getting the manners right is important.  In the words of Eric Burdon of ‘The Animals’: ‘Oh lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”.


5 thoughts on “In Defense of Formality.

  1. I have been convinced, however to consider the other side. What is the difference if we just talked like robots with no expression or exaggeration then not being able to talk informally? Through informative language we communicate with each other and everyone has their own approaches making them unique.I believe that conflict doesn’t always start with the misunderstandings of informal language. Everyone faces their ups and downs in life and that may be because of family issues not just the misunderstanding of informal language.


  2. Interesting perspective given by both Mr Mockridge and by Nily.N! Maybe there is a place for formal language and a place for informal language? The trick might be to work out which one is appropriate in a given situation. Also, I am not sure that speaking formally means being robotic, any more than speaking informally would always lead to conflict. So how do you get the balance? How can you know when to be formal and when to be informal?

    Maybe this illustrates what is being discussed here?


  3. I do agree in a way that our very own words can create conflict without knowing it. It’s a matter of using the right language and making sure the people we are talking to do misinterpret what we are trying to say. It also matters on the audience in which we are carring out our message to, if it was a young child i was talking to i would try to explain what im trying to say as easily as possible. f it were a adult i was talking to i would explain the message in great detail.


    • It is good that you see all these factors James. Audience, choice of words and even the tone we use can all be factors in determining whether our words are listened to or not, whether people understand what we are saying or not and even whether others will listen to our views or not. Of course, us being prepared to listen to them is also a critical component of effective communication.


  4. It may well be that in certain situations that casual language, the use of slang, swear words and alike are the way to go in order to be humourous or familiar. However, in the modern world this has become far too prevalent. It is not uncommon for someone to use aggressive language to point out what they see as another’s faults. “I don’t want you to treat me like that.” could be better than, “You are an ars****e”, simply because the first is an assertive comment about the needs of the individual and the latter invective that invites further conflict. The youth of today learn these things from the adults in their lives and the conflict comes about for them and the cycle repeats. The practical upshot of the constant barrage of such negative talk coming out of one’s own mouth leads to a lack of respect for oneself and others.


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