Social Skills 101: Rethinking Idioms

A big part of “normal” social skills and human communication is using idioms or turns of phrase that don’t make a lot of sense (and not saying anything when someone does use a turn of phrase that sounds like it should come with a safety warning):

Things like, “there’s plenty more fish in the sea” as a reasonable consolation to heartbreak. Unless the person consoling you is a lover of fish, or a sea dweller that does not devour fish (or you are either or both of those things) then it could be argued that this is a reasonable response. Otherwise….what?

“A little of what you fancy does you good”…we kind of get where this one is going unless what you fancy is cyanide, arsenic or any kind of poison.

and finally, “cold hands, warm heart”, nice saying but (disclaimer) it only applies to the living. That’s an important observation if you ever find yourself in a zombie apocalypse, in that instance the saying should be “cold haaaaaaands, RUN!!!!”*.

And, in case you were considering moving to a culture that doesn’t use idioms; it seems there are none. We found the following two non-english idioms; For example, in Spanish “Me estoy comiendo el coco”, literally translates to, ” I’m eating the coconut”, but as an idiom it translates to, “I’m trying to think”. Likewise the Danish idiom for having your period is “Der er kommunister i lysthuset”, which translates to, “There are communists in the funhouse”. Both of which are brilliant, but don’t make a lot of sense.

Idioms are fantastic because they give us insight into culture and even people’s sense of humour, but assuming that the implicit knowledge behind these sayings is shared, is shortsighted.  Not all speakers/readers know all idioms and, for some speakers/readers, idioms won’t make sense.

Social skills and communication styles are too rigid, and because of that we miss out on some amazing observations, conversations and connections. Let’s change that.

if-you-love-something

What do you think of idioms as a part of social skills? Do you have a favourite idiom?

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