Observing from the side

For as long as I can remember I have always been observant. I was a quiet spectator taking mental notes on what I was seeing. At first I didn’t know what I was looking for and even now there are times that I still don’t.  Needless to say I am and have been drawn towards observing verbal and nonverbal communication. I just never considered it as being a part of communication.

There is so much that is conveyed without saying a word.

I would always be in amazement at the scary stories that are told at the campfire. There is of course the setting which is a piece of communication in itself. Dim and flickering firelight feeds into an earie undertone.  If you have ever heard or told stories at a fire pit outside in the dark you probably can picture it now.


I was often more scared from my surroundings than the stories told. We would typically go around in a circle telling our stories. I quickly saw that some people have the gift to tell stories that engulf and engage you. They would pull you from your seat and into the world that they have crafted.  I never put much thought into it until now.

The good story tellers incorporate several tendencies when they are world crafting. They start by laying a foundation with a problem orientation approach. They are not telling you what fully happens but rather they will often leave details out. Allowing you to mentally answer a question, or for you to fill in certain plot points. This helps you relate more to the story allowing you to easy project yourself into it.

Spontaneity is also used often within these stories. This is when they will slow their speech … and … then… BAM!! Something jumps out or a book falls. This leaves you unable to zone out. Making you hang on every word so you do not miss anything.

They also tend to show a bit of empathy about the characters within the story. This is both verbal and physical. They use empathy in order to make the characters believable and relatable. This helps you see the characters as their own person.

As our technology continues to advance and evolve so does our language.  If you can think back to ever reading a text in the Old English, I think you can say they are hard to understand.  It is these storytellers that help translate and relay the story in a way that can be understood.  Using general semantics they would ‘translate’ uncommon words or phrases that are often confusing and misunderstood.  This in the end can change the meaning I of these stories.  You can look towards Disney for a glaring example of this. The Disney Fairy tales are all based in darker tales. For instance the Little Mermaid commits suicide by the end of the traditional story by Hans Christian Andersen.

One other thing that I found interesting this week was the term inflection. This relates to another post I made this week. I talk about a song by Blues Traveler – Hook.

In this song he talks directly about songs of this generation but the point can be brought across topics. He says that, ”it does not matter what I say as long I say it with inflection”.  It’s not about what is said it’s just about how you say it. This is very true and can be applied across several languages. For instance, in America we have a tendency to use sarcasm in every day speech. A word or sentence can change meanings depending on the inflections. The sentence, “Yeah that makes sense” can actually mean that it actually does not make any sense at all depending on the inflections.

Also the Mandarin is a tonal language. This means that words actually change meaning. For instance “ma” can mean mother, hemp, horse, and scold depending on the inflection.


  2 comments for “Observing from the side

  1. January 28, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Jason, I loved your blog post. You were able to weave together several different themes from the text and make it relatable to your reader. I like how you broke down how some people are good communicators and storytellers based on different factors, while others are not. Great use of the music video for Hook as well, because it paints your point very nicely. Communication is about way more than just the words that we say, it is about so many other factors. Some are shown in the music video, like appearance, status, purpose, tone, etc. It’s true that a lot of the time, these factors overpower the actual words we choose.

  2. February 24, 2016 at 7:38 am

    Hey Jason. Way to bring Tubb’s into light by highlighting several different factors about group communication. I can definitely relate to your story as you recounted how your grandfather would tell you stories by a camp fire on dark nights. I agree with you and I think that being in this type of environment while being entreated to a scary legend accentuates the emotion of fear, especially for little ones. Which brings me to my next point, the fact that you were young also played into the greater picture. I doubt that either of us would be so captivated and petrified in our adult life if we were to go back to those times. Ah, those wonderful times when life was simple and we didn’t have a thing to worry about. How I would do anything to hear my grandmother’s inflection, alternating fast then slow paced speech to emphasize a portion of her story. She would speak louder in scariest parts of the story, I think you referred to it as ….BAM! Good old days. Good post!

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