“What’s you’re problem?”
“I’m sorry, I think you will find it is ‘your’, not ‘you’re'”
“What’s your problem?!”
Our language is one of the most sophisticated methods of communication ever conceived by our species. As we travel further into technology-driven communication devices, our means by which we interact with one another has taken a dramatic shift away from the detail and towards the instant. We find ways to reduce our language into tiny pieces of code; forgetting the basic grammar, spelling, and punctuation, in the pursuit of immediate response. Sometimes a cartoon smiley (or not so smiley) face will do. I’m finding it more and more difficult to decipher the ‘code’ and find it really frustrating when basic English language skills are missing. But don’t mention it, ‘Grammar Police’ and persecuted for highlighting simple grammatical errors. It just doesn’t matter anymore.
Or does it? I know for one, I am at best mediocre when it comes to the use of language. My brain muddles words and writes and says things that are quite correct. But at least I give it a go; I attempt to be better at mastering my own language.
The reason that it does matter is the fact that we now conduct full relationships where our primary means of communication is through the written word [also images, calls, and video, but humour me]. The problem with that is you cannot express connotation and emotion with it. Yes, IF YOU NEED TO SHOUT USE CAPITALS by all means, or stick a laughing emoji at the end if we are not being entirely serious, but this is guess work. I don’t really know what you are truly saying, as I have know idea how many times you have edited that message.
What’s wrong with “what’s your problem?”
If someone sends a message to you asking “What’s your problem?” it may make you feel a little uncomfortable. It could feel quite aggressive and may trigger a response that isn’t favourable. Yet, it is the most direct way of finding out what you have an issue with. The same question asked differently: what problem do you have? Feels different, doesn’t it? A bit softer, less intrusive maybe, but still feels quite cold and again, it could be met with a defensive answer.
Removing ‘your’ and replacing it with ‘the’ suddenly changes the tone. “What’s the problem?” is less aggressive, but could also infer a sense of carelessness or lack of commitment. We can get ourselves in all sorts of bother with this when messaging one another, which is why the emergence of emojis has become an essential part of digital communication. Without it we are emotionless with our language; we are restricted by character count and attention spans, but we are still guessing on the emoji, we can’t make a human judgement based on being physically present in the conversation.
The main problem with ‘what’s your problem’ is we cannot see or hear it being said. We cannot judge the feelings that accompany the words. We are second guessing the nature of the statement.
Lack of emotion.
There isn’t anything wrong with the shortened, ‘coded’ messaging. In fact, it is quite ingenious to be able to shorten the language required when conversing with someone. The problem lies in our limited contact with people directly, and the lack of visual language which accompanies our spoken word.
Remember this when you meet a client, when you talk with your spouse, or play with your kids. There is much much more to language than simply words.