Noticing the power of language patterns in relationships

Noticing the power of language patterns in relationships:


We learn language from listening to others. If we are trained to use language in a formal setting like a public school, then certain patterns of language are encouraged, certain ones are ignored, and certain ones are discouraged. If we invest large amounts of time in to a particular type of TV show or genre of books, again there are certain neuro-linguistic pathways that are being stimulated by that specific kind of content (romantic comedies, sports, gangster movies, etc)….

In the case of music, there are the language patterns of the lyrics but also the tone of voice used by vocalists (and the rest of the sound). In the case of a music video, all of that is supplemented with visuals. The words of the lyrics are “bonded” with the melody and all the other aspects of the music video.

Can someone experience a predictable response due to the use of language in their midst? Aren’t certain subjects likely to produce different kinds of stimulation, such as horror movies (fear & stress) or romantic comedies (laughter)?

Even just the soundtrack of a horror movie could produce stress in someone. If listening to a talk show in a foreign language, even just the bursting laughter of the audience could create predicable responses in anyone who can hear the sounds- and that is without even comprehending any of the language.

Now, let’s talk about the actual patterns of words used:

“In my relationship, I need a partner who is _____. In other words, I am afraid that my partner will feel ____ and then will do the same thing that happened in a book I read, which was to _____. I definitely do not want that. That is why I keep focusing on how to avoid it! I mean, I do not deserve something like that, right!?!?”
A distinct pattern would be: ” I value a relationship that is _____. That is the kind of relationship that my partner and I would both be eager to nourish and preserve.”

Which pattern of language is more likely to be presented in a TV soap opera? Certain shows are centered on controversy. They are centered on drama and tension and conflict.

Are there TV programs about healthy relationships and healthy families? Sure, but even those will have drama.

Could a show demonstrate healthy ways of handling conflict? Documentaries might do that accurately, but when TV shows feature a favorable resolution to a stressful situation, they might create false expectations about what works to resolve conflicts and tension.

Is mainstream media a reliable source of valuable lessons? Can we expect the programming of highly effective ways of avoiding conflict and resolving conflict? Can we expect mainstream media to focus on promoting insight and introspection?

Or, can we presume that mainstream media is going to present sensationalist scandals and promote hysteria? I do not just mean the news, but all of the other programming, too. Do they want you to be hooked by “the cliff-hanger” and stayed tuned through the next commercial (or tune in again for the next episode)?

The primary target of all mainstream programming is to “hook” a bigger audience than the other shows that are on at the same time- and of course to attract readers or viewers to be spectators (rather than do something other than watch TV or read a book, such as to have a conversation with someone). The networks and the writers (and actors, producers, etc) are all competing for the most provocative content that they can get advertisers to support.

What shows are popular? Shows with the most intrigue and excitement are popular, right? We can look at the cable networks and see that there are entire channels dedicated to sports or talk shows or comedy or even sexuality.

Walk in to a bookstore (or video store) and you can see an entire section dedicated to horror, another to romance, another to popular science, and another to global politics or military history. You might even find a section on self-help.

What would you find in a self-help section? There could be content relating to how certain language patterns promote isolation, worry, and animosity in relationships:

“When I get frustrated with my relationship, then I focus on my partner. In particular, I focus on how they are too ___________ and how they lack _______. It’s like I have no power to change them even though I tried to fix them using everything that was in the other book in the self-help section!”

There could be content about how language patterns can promote a sense of commonality. There can be common priorities, common plans, and common activities.

“When I get frustrated with anything in my life, that can quickly alter my behavior. I can easily get irritated by too much new information or any more surprises. I value communication that is very attentive and precise. I prefer to take time to slow down and respect my prior experience of frustration. I understand that frustration is a type of feedback. I am willing to ask for help and try new things, but only selectively. I am ready to raise my standards and be more conservative (or even more assertive).”

What about the issue of commonality though? “I’m going to talk about me, but consider whether some of this applies to you as well, okay? I am ready to clarify my own results, my own practices, and my own motivations that are driving those practices and results. I would appreciate some feedback and input from you.  I have set aside some time to listen to you and understand your experience, your questions, and your requests. The better that I understand you, the better that I can respond to what works for you. Also, I value a dynamic of respect and understanding in the relationship, so we can carefully invest in producing respect and understanding. We can intentionally experiment and attentively refine our practices.”

Again, here is another pattern:

“The problem with this relationship is that you refuse to ____ and you keep ________________. This is so frustrating! You are ruining everything. My life was perfect until you came along and started raising questions about how well I communicate. You are obviously the one who cannot communicate. Why are you so bad at communicating anyway? I will tell you why: it is because you are always analyzing me and my analysis of you is that you analyze me too much and the wrong way and it is very embarrassing and you need to stop or else I am going to start distracting you by suddenly changing the subject to what you did not do 7 months ago that you should have done even though this is going to be the first time that I have ever mentioned it to you. However, you can be sure that I have been thinking about it regularly for the last 7 months while impatiently waiting for the opportunity to ambush you with it whenever I needed to distract attention from me. In fact, I have rehearsed my tantrum and my rage in private for 7 months and so now I am so glad to be able to finally express my rage (which I have been repressing since childhood) and I admit that it is nice to have someone just pay attention for so long and not react or attack me while I shout and wave my arms around like a ballet dancer so let’s have some really good sex now because what is really going on is that I am wondering why we have not had any sex at all in the last 4 days.”

Are there certain language patterns that tend to attract other people closer? Are there certain language patterns that tend to produce withdrawal or distance or even repulsion?

Certain tones of voice can produce attraction or repulsion. Certain body language can produce attraction or repulsion. Every new variation might increase or decrease the prior intensity of attraction or repulsion. That is just part of how communication works.

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