Code Switching – What Is It?

Code switching! You may be thinking, “Patrick, what are you talking about?” Chances are, you’re already doing it! Code switching is a an incredible tool to have in your communication utility belt, and I am excited to share with you what it is in this video!


What is code switching? Code switching is changing the way we speak, depending on the circumstances. It could be the words we use, the tone we use, or even the accent we use. A lot of us do this naturally, you’ll hear people all the time changing the way they speak depending on their audience.
The other day I was at the gym, and I heard somebody in the middle of a heated conversation. It was very tender, and yet kind of pointed, and I thought hmm, who is that on the other side? And I realized it’s their spouse. I could tell, very clearly, it was their spouse.
I do a lot of corporate coaching, and when I go to call centers, for instance, and I work with people who deal with customers on the phone, we talk about tone. And the tone that they most often want to strike is one of empathy, one of understanding. Having that ability to code switch and have that tone is key to their success on the job.
I recently saw the movie Lady Bird, it’s up for all kinds of awards this year, and Laurie Metcalf plays a mother, she plays a nurse and a mother. And it’s a story about this relationship between the mother and the daughter, and it’s kind of tense, great picture. And Laurie Metcalf does a wonderful job of using a certain tone with her daughter, that’s very different from the tone she uses when she’s a nurse, talking to one of her patients. You hear this absolutely different side of her. It’s very natural, it’s very organic.
When do you use code switching? When do you code switch the way that you speak? When you’re talking to your spouse? Talking to your parents? Talking to your employees? I would love to hear it from you, because it’s a very interesting topic. How adept are you at code switching? Do you do it naturally? Is it something that you could get even better at, knowing how to suit what you’re saying to your audience? It’s really about knowing who is your audience? Answering that question, and being able to bring up the tone that works for you in that situation.
When do you code switch? That’s the question that I have for you, today.