Interactional talk has been called ‘the lubrication of the social wheels’; it brings us up to speed, bolsters self-esteem, reinforces commonly held beliefs, and soothes the human need for fellowship.
For friends, this type of talk may involve narrative summaries of turning points, time travel back to shared memories, tidbits of gossip about mutual allies and foes, or chitchat about the weather.
Professional colleagues also have a need for acceptance into a collective. Actually, their need is arguably more interesting because they have more at stake. Collegial alliances are more volatile than networks grounded in friendship. Colleagues are motivated to get along with each other because in many cases their livelihoods depend on it.
An eavesdropper on a water cooler conversation around the office is bound to witness speakers avoiding outlandish statements, safeguarding conversations from becoming too personal, or digressing too far from mainstream ideas – basically trying to be agreeable with people they may not care much about or like very much. The language choices that co-workers make every day allow them to showcase their distinctiveness, and thus to construct their professional identities.
Your workplace persona is based largely on what you say and how you say it, and not so much for what you do or how you do it. And if the content is king, then delivery is God. People are super-sensitive to paralinguistic expressions. They are alert to tone, sarcasm, sincerity, and all the little verbal things we do to indicate our mood and showcase our achievements.
Learning how to say what you mean and avoid saying what you feel is a practiced skill and absolutely necessary in the high stakes game of intraoffice politics. Polish your English speaking skills for the competitive workplace with a course on business communication–find a great coach; it’s worth it and you’re worth it.
If you are interested in learning even more about TOEFL Learning, check out my course Clear Strategies & Tactics.
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