How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The ChangingMinds Blog!
The other day my wife and I were staying with my sister and were talking over the dinner table and I noticed that my wife was frequently using the word 'Basically' as a prefix to statements. Then I noticed that I was doing it too.
So what is it all about? Why add 'Basically' to the start of a sentence when it adds nothing to the content.
In later conversation, we concluded that it was 'teacher-speak'. My wife was a teacher for many years. I also taught but only for a couple of years before going into business, where I had many roles in supporting and consulting with others. In both cases, we had a need for others to really understand what we were saying, rather than superficially accepting it.
If the people you are talking with start out thinking that the subject is complex, then they will be less likely to believe they will understand you, and may hence create a self-fulfilling prophesy whereby their belief that they will not understand leads them to not understanding. A way we try to overcome this tendency is to signal to the other person that what we are about to say is not complex, and one way we do this is to start the sentence with 'Basically, ...'. In a teaching or persuading situation this may be appropriate, but there is a potential problem in its use.
When you start a sentence with 'Basically', you are also saying 'I am expert. You will not understand if I explain fully, so I will make it simple, because you are simple.' Which of course can be quite insulting. Yet it is a common enough wording, so people may not know they are being insulted, though they may still feel a certain discomfort when listening to you. And perhaps get defensive or feel that somehow they do not like your company so much.
Basically, it seems, we need to stop doing this.
Basically, I come to this site for ideas for my English class. It's basically
a class in which I engage in conversation with learners of the English language.
The topics range from the basic to the complex, but I work to make all of them
as interesting as possible.
-- Sean I.