Emotional Contradiction

Isn’t it funny that a rainbow makes the shape of a frown?? And it’s supposed to be such a happy thing. Photo source: Jenn and Tony Bot, flickr creative commons

At times funny, surprising, cute, hilarious — or even sometimes scary — emotional contradiction is a great teaching device.

As when your students say, “Fine thank you, and you?” while scowling or slumped over their desks.

It just doesn’t make sense to say, “I’m angry!” with a million dollar smile on your face. Or to cheerfully shout, “Lucky you!” if someone says, “I failed my English test.”

More than just a great source of entertainment in the class, emotional contradiction is a great teaching tool.

Rather than letting these strange interactions to take place without comment, we try to point out these emotional contradictions in class to illustrate a variety of important lessons about communication. For example:

-How do we connect emotion with our words?

-How does our behavior effect communication?

-What is does a good, appropriate, engaging in a particular conversation?

-What is strange, inappropriate, unfavorable?

Native speakers are experts of emotional contradiction. Start pointing out the contradiction to lighten the mood and get students connecting the right emotions to their words. A textbook isn’t going to teach them that.