Thursday, September 29, 2016

The invisible force that speeds things up or slows them down

Photo Credit: Jose at Flickr
I don't play the drums. You probably don't play the drums, either. At least, you probably don't have a drum kit in your office to set the beat for your work communication.  But it might be really helpful.

Rhythm is the invisible force in language. While everyone is preoccupied with what words mean and how long they are and whether they are spelled correctly, rhythm nudges attention in different directions, changing the effect that words have on a listener or reader.

Long can be complicated or long can be a gentle ramble, soothing the reader into a calmer, more open state. What's the difference between complicated and soothing? It's the rhythm of the sentence.

Instead of trying to understand the technical practice of rhythm in language (it's complicated), why not simply practice noticing the rhythm in speech or writing? As you read this, tap a finger to what you think is the rhythm you are picking up. As you listen to someone speak, tap a finger or toe inconspicuously, just tracking the beats in the voice.

As you become aware of rhythm, you will feed your bigger self (unconscious, super conscious or brain, depending on your preferred terminology) an instruction to notice the correspondence between rhythm and results. This is too complicated to track consciously, but well within the capabilities of our mind/brain/body systems (which are already tracking multiple rhythms continuously and syncing them to different people or aspects of the environment). The question is not whether you can use rhythm effectively, but how to open yourself to noticing the relationship between the rhythm of language and the impression it makes.

You don't have a drum kit with you at all times. But you have fingers or toes or eyelids that blink. You have the tools you need to notice rhythm, and as you notice it, you will begin to change your own rhythms. And you'll find that there are more good listeners around you than you thought there were.

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