Quotes for teens on life lessons

Quote for teens that it's not just what you say it's how you say it

"It’s not just what you say. It’s also how you say it."

-- unknown

“Sure. Ok, boss.”

What could these simple words mean? Maybe they mean, “Sure. I’m totally ok staying late Friday night to sort the recyclable cans by color.” Or maybe it was more like, “Sure. Okaaay. I’ll sort the cans. But not without letting you know I think you’re a total scobberlotcher.”

Tone and body language speak volumes. And sometimes, we use them to make our displeasure known. It can feel good to win back a sense of power by delivering the words we “should” say along with an annoyed tone or eye roll. But even this lubberwort of a boss knows her employee just tried to put her down. Most people don’t take kindly to that. And sometimes, it’s downright counterproductive.

What you say matters as much as how you say it. When you treat others with respect, you’re a lot more likely to get the respect you want in return. And even if your boss doesn’t stop acting like a gnashnab, you can feel pride in your heart for setting the right example.

Side note: We don't recommend actually calling your boss a scobberlotcher, lubberwort, or gnashnab, even if they are accurate.

Activities for this quote

Teaching resources

Bring this quote into your classroom with a lesson guide and activities that are ready to use.

Quote Overview / Description

Quote about communicating respectfully

This quote focuses on relationships and communication skills. "It's not just what you say, it's how you say it" reminds young adults that tone and body language can dramatically alter the meaning of what they are communicating. Short phrases in particular, like "OK," "Sure," "Whatever," "I know," can be charged with emotions and defiance, making the words come across as disrespectful.

Tone has Consequences

Communicating displeasure through tone and body language may make a teen feel better in the moment, but it's generally not good for the relationship. Tone and body language messages are coming through loud and clear, and parents, teachers, employers, spouses are likely to feel ( and probably react ) negatively in response.

Check your Intent

Before throwing out a tone, teens might consider what they really want. If their intent is to vent or to be defiant without feeling any consequences, a teen's tone is likely to cause them more harm than good. If their intent is to let someone know they're not happy about something because they want to change it, there are healthier ways to communicate and more effective ways to get what you want.

Discussion questions / Writing Prompts

Questions to prompt discussion, journaling, essays for high school health class and social emotional development lessons:

  1. Explain how the same words can mean something different depending on how they are said.
  2. Have you ever said something and someone took it the wrong way? Why do you think it was misunderstood?
  3. Have you ever said something with a tone or attitude because you wanted someone to know you were annoyed? Did it work? Did it get you the result you wanted?
  4. When has someone said what you wanted to hear, but said it in a way that seemed like they didn't mean it?
  5. What are some examples of body language that show displeasure or a closed off attitude? What are some that show an open attitude?
  6. Have you ever heard an apology that didn't sound like the person meant the words they said? How should a genuine apology sound?
  7. What do these examples of body language usually communicate? Crossed arms, Eye Roll, Glaring, Hands on hips, Raised eyebrows, Full smile vs pursed lips, Leaning forward
  8. For each word, describe at least two different ways you could say the words that would change their meaning: "OK", "Fine", "Sorry", "Are you really going to wear that?" "Actually, there are 2,058 pyramids."


Activities and worksheets for teen SEL / high school health and wellness lessons:

  1. Conflict Worksheet- In this worksheet, teens think about what they really want, and if what they are doing is helping them get there.
  2. Tone Changes Meaning Activity- Create a video saying the same word in different tones or with different body language to change its meaning. Try words like "ok", "sure", "I know", "whatever".

Coloring Pages

Download printable coloring pages for a mindfulness activity that features this quote.

  1. Classic coloring page
  2. Say What? coloring page

Curriculum Topics

High School Health Class / Social Emotional Development Core Curriculum Alignment:

  • Interpersonal relationships, healthy relationships
  • Communication Skills
  • Actions and consequences
  • Understanding emotions


  • Respect others as you would like to be respected
  • Be aware of your communication skills/style
  • Connect actions and consequences

Character Traits/Values

  • Self control
  • Respect
  • Honesty- saying one thing and meaning something else

The quote and opening paragraph of this page are an excerpt from the Book, Truth Be Told Quotes: Teen Edition. Presented with permission from the author, Colleen Doyle Bryant. ©LoveWell Press. Find the print and ebook versions of Truth Be Told Quotes on the Shop page.

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Colleen Doyle Bryant

Colleen Doyle Bryant is the author of five books and more than 50 learning resources about making good choices for the right reasons. Her Talking with Trees series for elementary students and Truth Be Told Quotes series for teens are used in curriculums around the world. Rooted in Decency, Colleen's latest release for an adult audience, explores what happened to common decency and how we can get to a place of more cooperation and kindness. Learn more at ColleenDoyleBryant.com.

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