Do you know people with whom you associate certain phrases that you often hear them use? I call these their signature phrases. For some people a repeated phrase is simply a passing thing or a habit. I notice this most often in public speakers. From frequent ‘aah, ehhs’ and elongated sounds to words such as ‘like’, ‘because’ and ‘basically’, they are often replacements for pauses and can be overcome with conscious practice and awareness.
For others though, a signature phrase is much more defining and can give us many insights about their state of mind.
Have you met people who have a signature phrase? They repeat that phrase many times in conversation and out of habit lean towards it when lost for words.
Whenever I meet Anita, I hear about “the stage I am in at the moment”. No conversation with Gayatri can not begin with “ you know how it is Madhuri”. In the midst of explaining a psychological term or concept, Kiran will often apologise “with all due respect”. Kamal considers many things ‘not ideal’. Neha experiences the world in superlatives.
The phrases we use are often so telling about us. Anita is going through a transformational phase in life. She is on the path to self-discovery in such an immersive way that it is difficult for her to really see the journey of others. She is giving her everything to this inner transformation so much so that even if she is reminded of another person’s experience, she finds a way to relate it back to ‘her stage in life’.
Gayatri is overworked and is bearing the entire weight of her family alone at present. She has taken on the biggest challenge of her life in recent years and is still living each day on the edge. Everything seems small and trivial in the light of what she has accomplished. The phrase ‘you know how it is” is a constant reminder to herself that this burden is still so omnipresent in each moment and supercedes any fun life may throw her way.
Kiran is intellectually stimulated by higher thoughts. Her study takes her deep into the matters of the mind and intellect. In conversation she often finds herself delving into the nuts and bolts of this intellectual material and then a sudden moment of self-consciousness hits her where she feels she has alienated her listener. By offering due respect, she tries to engage once again with her listener and in her self-deprecating way which is so endearing, attempts to step down from the pedestal of the esoteric.
Another way I have seen people use signature phrases are as reaffirmations of their personal belief systems.
Kamal is a man of firm beliefs. He considers himself principled and has firm ideals about how life should be lived. When talking to his clients, whom he serves, he often points out that which is ‘not ideal’. He is able to relate the pendulum of ‘ideal or not’ to any situation, person or circumstance, be it in work or in life.
Neha uses many ‘super’latives when describing someone special. People who leave an impression on her often are ‘super sweet, most genuine, super smart, super amazing’ people. There is a deep desire in her to be amazed by the world she lives in which is childlike and fickle at the same time. She sees this desire mirrored in people who manage to leave an impression on her. It also leaves her open to dissapointment when that person does not live up to the image she may have created of him in her head.
Do most people realise that these phrases are just a small reflection of the overall impression they make on others?
Our signature phrase tell others about us like a blurb tells about a book. A perceptive listener may use it simply to articulate his/her understanding of our character, and in that scope, it’s interpretation is only true to that person.
Do you have a signature phrase and what does it say about you?
A signature phrase is a great starting point for introspection. If you find yourself repeating something often, you can start by asking yourself:
What does this phrase say about me?
Do I believe this to be wholly and absolutely true?
What would I be like if I believed it to be true?
What would I be like if I didn’t believe it to be true?
Does this process bring out any new realisations?
PS: (Persons mentioned in this post are not fictitious; their names are)