“It’s not what you say but how you say it,” according to William Carlos Williams.

Listen to how people speak to get a true picture of what is going on. For example:

“Where do you work?” Answer: “I work at Acme at the moment.”

“Where do you live?” Answer: “I live in Kaitira at the moment.”

This person is mentally unsettled. “… at the moment” means “… as soon as something better/different comes up, I’ll be off.”

“You’re in banking, what do you think of the foreign exchange rate?” Answer: “Well, it’s – ahhh – quite a sort of – well – complex, like it needs to be … ahhh … sorted, eh.” 

This person doesn’t understand the business they’re in and finds it difficult to express an opinion. They’re out of their depth and not enjoying the experience.

At the shop: “Thanks for explaining that. But what about the warranty?” Answer: “Well, to be honest, you won’t need a warranty.”

Suddenly this person has decided to be honest. That means everything they told you up to this point must have been dishonest.

Unknown telephone caller: “Mr Morris, how are you today?”

He wants to sell me something.

John is explaining something. “It’s as big as, well, you know.”

No, John. I don’t know. Describe it to me.

“Sweet as, bro.” Sweet as WHAT?

This person is too lazy to think of a suitable synonym.

The words we use, or the words we give our characters to say, speak volumes when we read between the lines.

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