‘Hi, how are you?’

‘How can I be with you being in my life?’

These are two messages exchanged between two persons. If no further information is given, you are bound to interpret the answer in various ways. If these messages are exchanged between persons in good relations, it may mean that the person replying means to say that s/he is great and is solely because of the other’s company. But if these messages are between husband and wife who have already filed divorce, it may also mean that the responder’s life is hell and responsibility lies on the person asking the question.

Often we interpret words as per our mood. If we are gloomy, ‘oh’ seems to be sad, but in good spirit, the same ‘oh’ is cheerful. This happens especially in text messages which we use more frequently on social media platforms. Our emails, WhatsApp messages or any other text message delivered without vocal support is much more prone to misinterpretation by the reader.

Have you ever faced such a situation that your good intention has been taken wrongly when you write a message to someone on WhatsApp? Has it ever been used against you with a wrong intention? Such incorrect interpretation maybe because of genuine misunderstanding or intentional mischief by the other person. Sometimes it may also be understood in a very positive way while you have been angry while writing them.

A boss writing to his subordinate, ‘I expected this from you,’ may be intended in sarcasm, scolding or appreciation. But it depends on the situation, context and interpretation of the receiver of the message. It is not easy for anyone else to impute meaning to such written words. When it comes to spoken words, of course, there are intonation and ways to express same words in a different meaning. But apart from the speaker of the words, it is also the listener of them who is responsible for giving meaning to the spoken words. No one else but the person who is listening to them has full power to understand them in a certain context. Unfortunately, it is not even the speaker of the words who has any authority to impute specific meaning to them. Once spoken, they are out of his control and they can be interpreted in any manner. In many situations, comments given in the right spirit are also taken or proven as wrong and offensive, resulting in great damage to the speaker.

There is a legal wrong called innuendo which means having hidden meaning behind obvious words. This meaning is clear only to those people who have background information about the situation. In Law of Torts, innuendo is actionable if it can be proven that those who knew the background information could have taken them in a defamatory way and the person’s reputation may be affected adversely. ‘This is her son,’ can be innuendo if the lady about whom this sentence is spoken is unmarried. But this becomes insulting only in the eyes of people who know about the marital status of the woman. (Keeping the possibility of adopting aside.) Although it is not easy to prove in the court of law, innuendo has been a type of wrong being committed again and again in daily life. People tend to give sarcastic comments which may sometimes not be innocent.

In a way, it is true that words are innocent but the meaning attached to them by the speaker or the listener may be offensive. Good words could be used in bad ways and as such there are no bad words, leaving the curses aside. But why speak the bad language? Even the best of the words could be conveyed in a way that can be enough nasty in meaning. Using words in different ways is an art that can be acquired with practice. Comedians, writers, poets and good orators – all have this gift of using the words in magical ways. They can make the words work for them and what they make of their life is solely on the basis of the use of words. Leaders use words so effectively that masses follow them. Spiritual gurus are other masters of words who have been guiding millions of people through the use of words.

Therefore, it is very important to use the words consciously and carefully. They can be interpreted in different ways and their effects will be long-lasting. Wise people advise handling words carefully as they have power more than an atom bomb. They are creators and they are destroyers. Words spoken by a person can affect many people for a long-long time. Even more power lies behind the written words as their energy is ever-present behind them to unleash creation or havoc for the times to come.

“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” -Rumi

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