Confusion makes etiquette lesson backfire

Olivia, age nine, mimics me in her speech pattern. I speak like a confident adult – or like a newscaster. In news, you end the sentence on a “down” note to imply authority. Think about it: if it ends on an “up” note, doesn’t that seem like a question?

TV news was my milieu for a long, long time. That, and the fact that I lived for decades on the mainland. It feels like people I interacted with in San Francisco or New York had a more confident speech pattern. 

I can soften it up, but it’s not my default. I have had to learn the ability to lilt, quiet the voice, and raise the voice – mostly when talking to children. 

Anyway, the saying goes that one’s greatest weakness is one’s greatest strength, and so it is. What serves me well in the business world doesn’t serve me as well as a mother. 

It turns out my child copies even my method of speaking. Childhood is the time for trying out new things, and she sometimes hits the mark, and sometimes doesn’t.

Sometimes she gets the tone and delivery just right and it would be perfect, if only she were 20. Sometimes she doesn’t and it is slight off-key in a social way.

We’ve noticed this for a while and made periodic corrections, but like anything, it requires multiple reminders.

The other day, because we have seven houseguests, I didn’t want to embarrass her. I pulled her aside and whispered (again) that she needs to sound sweeter because she’s a child and she’s addressing a group that includes adults.

“End the sentence on an up note,” I advised. “Raise your voice if you’re trying to be polite.”

Apparently, she took me literally. The whole next day, while playing with houseguests’ kids at the beach, she was speaking so loudly that we could hear Olivia from far away. She was not yelling, but rather, speaking as if they were hard-of-hearing.

Claus walked up to her and told her not to speak so loudly. She looked at him and said, “But? Mom said to raise my voice if I’m trying to be polite?”

Bless her heart. 

Author(s) on this Post

Diane Ako

Peace of mind By Diane Ako I like to reflect on life. Sometimes it’s philosophically. Sometimes it’s humorously. For all its beauty, life is far too difficult a journey to take alone. You need the support and connection with others to help carry you along the way. Writing brings me that connection– within and without. It clarifies my thoughts and feelings. It helps me reach out to others for advice, wisdom, or feedback. Your thoughts become your actions. Your actions become you. A wise yogi- Patanjali- said, “Speak what is true. Speak what is pleasant.” Let’s speak of things pleasant to one another and seek some peace of mind along the way. ABOUT Diane Ako joined Hawaii: In Real Life in October 2016. She likes being part of a community of local bloggers – people who like writing and sharing, like she does. Ako is an anchor/ reporter at Island News (KITV4 – ABC) in Honolulu. She previously anchored and reported at KHON2 (FOX) and KHNL (NBC), and at stations in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. She freelance writes for NMG Network's magazines. In between news jobs, in 2017, she launched and ran her own p.r. company, Diane Ako PR. From 2010-2014, she headed the public relations department at Halekulani Corporation, which oversees luxury resort Halekulani and boutique hotel Waikiki Parc. She’s been blogging since 2009 – before Hawaii: IRL, she wrote for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest daily newspaper, where her stories garnered a dozen journalism awards and an Emmy nomination. Ako has a BA in Communications from Menlo College and an MA in Political Science from University of Hawaii at Manoa. She volunteers as a board member of the Honolulu Gay & Lesbian Cultural Foundation, a Shinto shrine maiden at Daijingyu Temple, a citizen-scientist studying shrimp, and a yoga teacher at a senior center.

Diane Ako has 274 posts and counting. See all posts by Diane Ako

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