“Choice Of Words” In Communication: The Case Of Methodist Bishop’s Letter To UMU President

“Choice Of Words” In Communication: The Case Of Methodist Bishop's Letter To UMU President

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

At times there are issues in the society which are not considered as being so controversial and therefore do not really engender much public interest because of the way they are handled. Yes, this is true, notwithstanding, they can still be of public interest based on the way and manner in which an aspect of such event can be of interest to the public, in that for every event or situation, but there are lessons to learn.

Such events or happenings do not have to necessarily be controversial or contentious to claim public attention. As it is said in writing, the writer has a duty to engender the public interest, something I try to apply today in this piece because of the importance of communication, no matter the form and manner.

Communication, as we know, is necessary in human existence. This is why one of the axioms in communication says, “You Cannot Not Communicate.” This means that as people exist, there would always be communication, whether it is verbal or nonverbal. This is why even people with hearing problem use what is referred to as “sign language.” These kinds of people are locally referred to as “BOBO,” a word that is not frequently used because of its connotation, which suggests ignorance.

Because of the choice of words which is important in communication, when care is not taken in a piece of communication, this usually leads to unnecessary confrontation or commotion. Some of the conflicts around are basically the result of the improper use of words. This may be intentional or unintentional.

Equally, communication is not just the choice of words, but the manner or “how” one vocally speaks out. This is why communication experts came out with what is known as “paralanguage,” with its elements of “Pitch, Volume, Rate and Pauses.”

Paralanguage can simply be referred to as:”the tone of voice,” as it is said, “not what you say sometimes, but how you say it vocally.” It is yelling when there is no need to do so, thus causing unnecessary uproar. Someone may use the word, “PLEASE,” but if the tone is aggressive vocally, it suggests improper or bad-mannered communication.

This week it was gathered and later reported that the president of the United Methodist University (UMU), Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Bailey was removed as head of that institution. The UMU president was officially informed of this by the Bishop of the Church, Rev. D r. John B. Innis in a euphemistic communication addressed to Dr. Bailey, who has served the institution for a decade.

Today, I take this as an issue because of the way and manner in which the Bishop contextually wrote the letter to the UMU president. I see this as very important for public consumption because sometimes, misunderstanding or confusion comes about because of the choice of words in a piece of communication.

Particularly, I am concerned about the key word used in his communication, which is “discontinued,” when the Bishop said,”…that your appointment as president of UMU is hereby discontinued effective August 31,2015. Had it been in some instances, the word ‘dismiss’ or ‘sacked’ could have been used. Sometimes words can be used interchangeably, but they carry different meanings based on the situation.

At times people do not understand the connotation of words. This is how a lover ignorantly referred to his lover as a “notorious girl,” failing to realize that notoriety depicts bad behavior, but he thought he was introducing her as a “famous girl.” Another example in this country is that whenever someone says to you that “you are not from a home,” they are not referring to the structure, but training and proper upbringing.

The portion of his communication that I admire reads: “ I wish to thank you for serving as President of the United Methodist University (UMU) over the past ten years. Your leadership, I must admit, enhanced the academic and physical growth of the University. We are very thankful for this.

“However, I am pleased to inform you that your appointment as president of UMU is hereby discontinued effective August 31,2015.I have done this in consultation with the cabinet and members of the UMU Board of Directors. By September 1, 2015, I will appoint you to another position in the Church.

“Therefore, in consultation with the cabinet and the Board, we have asked Bro. Johnson Gwaikolo to act as President pending the search for a new President during the 2016/2017 academic year. Please, in an orderly manner, turn all official documents and properties of the University over to Bro. Gwaikolo.

“Once again, I wish to thank you for the years you served the University. May God bless you as you continue the Ministry of Jesus Christ in another area.

Considering the contexts or contents of the Bishop’s letter, Dr. Bailey has no reason to react, as it is done in may similar situations because of the choice of words. It is in this same vein, that sometimes communicators use “euphemism,” which requires the use of soft or mild words for those which might be “distasteful or offensive.”

Yes, indeed, in such a situation, people might suspect that there might have been some problems, but the contents of the letter, especially so when the Bishop said, “Your leadership, I must admit, enhanced the academic and physical growth of the University. We are very thankful for this,” is as good public relations for this outgoing president.

Until we realize that the “CHOICE OF WORDS,” is necessary in communication to avoid unnecessary confrontation and commotion, I Rest My Case.”