Thoughts on… formality

The following is entirely based on observation…

Formality is an interesting one isn’t it? We, as humans, seem to resort to formal speech when we meet somebody new, or when we talk about business. But why?

It comes naturally to my mind that rapport can be built between two people if they match their tone of language, style of dress, and even breathing rates. This would lead on to the indication that those who have particular styles or ways-of-life, seemingly manage to connect quite naturally and are able to work together successfully. This is magnified when the people involved also share particular areas of knowledge and interest.

Formality, in this context, is about taking a particular form. It seems to me that “formality” is often associated with business environments. These environments require wearing a particular type of dress, “formal wear”, indicating a two or three piece suit, or some other kind of office wear. These environments also seem to bring out a type of language from people which is quite foreign from their day-to-day speech. This language, when fully employed, sometimes comes out in a robotic fashion.

As humans are naturally beings which are both intuitive and logical, both emotional and rational, it seems very odd to me that we would try to remove all forms of the intuitive and emotional, from speech, whether that speech is “day-to-day” or “formal”.

Surely it would be better if we tried to transact conversation however rapport would guide us. Providing (and advocating) a careful balance of tolerance and personal belief. Why enforce, or try to enforce, conformities on those to whom it does not come naturally?

I would imagine that both the enforcement of conformity (authoritarian method), and the truly open rapport method (anti-authoritarian method), could lead to what we call tribalism. Tribalism has its pros and cons. One of the largest “con” is hatred between tribes, another large “con” is that it is extremely difficult to build bridges between tribes. So if we were to implement the anti-authoritarian method of non-formality.

Such a topic also makes me think about the use of language. Is it truly ethical to enforce a particular style of language? Granted we have to actually teach the next generations how to use the language that we use in order that we can pass down concepts and history, but why are neologisms so frowned upon? Why are subtle modifications in language structure so frowned upon? Just by looking into the history of the English language you’ll find that it has changed quite a bit in the last 100 years, and is basically unrecognisable if you go back 1000 years. We even have regional differences – for example, I bet that it would annoy quite a few people to hear what is spoken in Bristol as “Warez ee to?”, which means “where is he?”, not only is the word “where” seemingly merged with the word “is”, but the “h” is dropped in “he”, and the word “to” is appended, which to some is more seemingly problematic than the word “at” which would sometimes be added in various other regions of the world. My point is to perhaps let it be, and let language evolve. In some cases regional dialects are not “new”, but have history longer than the authorised bibles.

One problem does come to mind though, which is learning a language. In which case it is useful to have a common basis.

Anyway, I have digressed quite a bit from my original topic. So I’ll end the post here.

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