"It is not about what you say; it is all about how you say it." What does this mean?

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the statement reflects that sometimes you can be passing on a message, but it isn't the one coming from your mouth. When we were kids, my mother used to say, "What you are speaks so loud I can't hear what you're saying." It is easy to say something, but sometimes our "actions speak louder than words."

If someone tells us something we don't want to hear and/or don't agree with, rolling our eyes, crossing our arms, avoiding eye contact, snorting, or smirking are things that say much more than our words. Insincerity plays a part in this quote. If you're actions are not contradicting what you say, it's possible that your tone may be misleading. Sometimes people read things into our words that we do not intend. It's difficult to avoid this unless we are especially explicit in what we say. Other times we may speak and our tone does not seem genuine: if we are sarcastic or our responses lack conviction, what we are saying may not be heard at all.

In making sure we are understood while speaking, it is important to strive for clarity, to make sure our facial expressions match what we are saying (or want to say) and that we look for non-verbal clues from our listeners: a person we may be speaking to or a group. Asking for reinforcement like, "Does that make sense?" or "What do you think?" will provide you with instant feedback.

Miscommunication can destroy business deals, peace negotiations and friendships. It can be a tricky business. Always speak carefully and watch for the reactions of others if you're concerned about the effect of your words.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, as any good public speaker knows, it is estimated that about 80% of the total meaning of what we say is communicated not through the actual words we use but through the non-verbal communication, the pauses, the inflection and the stress that we use delivering those words. I am sure you have had really boring teachers who manage to turn the most exciting topic into a struggle for survival as you battle sleep to endure a lecture. Yet at the same time I bet you have had excellent teachers or lecturers who have made a topic that you thought was going to be boring absolutely fascinating through their non-verbal communication and so on. All this shows that actually the way we speak and the methods that we use are much more important than the words themselves. This is why speechmakers practice their speeches before giving them. It is all about technique and how we say what we say.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lots of good explanation in post #2. To focus on a narrower interpretation of your phrase, consider the sentence "This is my bedroom."

This is my bedroom - How you might say the sentence when showing your house to a new friend who doesn't know what the rooms are.

This is my bedroom - How you might say the same sentence when your little brother or sister, who isn't supposed to be there, is getting into your things.

This is my bedroom - How you might say the sentence if you are tired and want to go to sleep but others are having a noisy party that is keeping you awake.

It is all about how you say it!!

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have to agree with all of the other posters to this point. But, to add another point-of-view, think about texting. Texting lacks any emotions at all. Yes, some people try to add emotion by including a smiley face or a sad face, but the words offer no emotive qualities at all. Therefore, confusion can set in when emotion lacks to present itself in conversation. Conversations need emotion embedded within the context so that there is no confusion as to exactly what is being said.

In the end, it is always "how" one says something that matters the most.

Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It means that you can convince people of pretty much anything if you word it correctly. For example, if you tell Republicans or Democrats that are certain plan came from a member of their party, they are much more likely to go for it than if they know it came from a member of the opposing party. Complimenting a person before asking for a favor increases your chances of getting the favor. The statement is basically saying that there's a thin line between persuasion and manipulation and it's not always clear where that line is drawn.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Body language and tone are part of this, but also consider cultural implications. In most cultures, there are accepted conventions for saying things. Sometimes how you choose your words is important because you have to phrase it or introduce it in a culturally appropriate or sensitive way. So in addition to body language, also consider cultural norms.
tonyselby | Student

With lot of thought and timing being applied prior to the statement.

Thats the problem with email it is quick and cannot be retracted if enough thought has not been applied.

mendesn | Student

it is about how you say it but also what you say. if you say something in a rude and offensive tone, people will take it as rude and offensive and if you continue like that, people may end up regarding you as a rude person. How you say something isn't also everything, depending on your body language or look it will impact how it is taken.

nishatabubakar | Student

It has alwayz been about hw we say say it not about what we say. When we go somewhere as representative it is alwazys about how we represent our context not about our context.

So we all should be aware of the way we say it not  about what we say

shizza123 | Student

i really matters how you say things..... like:



1) you can look eager.... fidget, smile and look really excited...

2) you could fold your arms, not smile and sound sarcastic....

...see?? same thing... two different ways..... :)

shizza123 | Student

body language matters a lot. there is a also a rule about this in drama.

try this with dogs.....

you hold the dog in your arms... nicely and softly... you pet them... and sweetly say..... ooo.... you're such a stupid little doggy....

act all lovey dovey but say bad things........ THE DOG WILL STILL LIKE YOU.


say nice things... and look aggressive or talk loudly, and THE DOG WILL GET SCARED... AND NOT COME NEAR YOU......


fun, huh?? :)