How to Tell Whether it is Jail Talk or Real Talk

Are you ever uncertain if the conversations you are hearing are just jail talk or real talk? It can be difficult to tell, and the implications of mistaking one for the other can have significant consequences.

In this blog post, we will look at some helpful tips so that you can become confident in telling when it is jail talk and when it is genuine dialogue. Let’s get started!

10 Ways to Tell Whether It Is Jail Talk or Real Talk

You’ve probably been in this situation before. You’re talking to someone and you’re not sure whether they’re serious or just joking around. Here are 10 ways to tell the difference between jail talk and real talk.

  1. Pay Attention to the Language
  2. Look Out for Exaggerated Stories
  3. Listen for Inappropriate Bragging
  4. Delusions of Grandeur
  5. Obscure References and Allusions
  6. Assess How the Person Treats Others
  7. Note Any Attempts to Appear Tough
  8. Identifying Slang Terms
  9. Identifying Stereotypical Topics
  10. Manipulative Behavior

Pay Attention to the Language

How to Tell Whether it is Jail Talk or Real Talk

When it comes to deciphering jail talk from real talk, language is your best friend. Look out for words like “them” and “they.” In jail, people will often use this term to refer to the police or anyone in a position of authority.

So, if someone you’re talking to starts negatively talking about “them”, it’s a pretty good indication that they might be using jail talk.

Likewise, watch out for excessive cursing. People in jail are often limited in what they can say, so they’ll use curse words as a way of expressing themselves. If someone you’re talking to starts dropping f-bombs left and right, it’s likely that they’re using jail talk.

Look Out for Exaggerated Stories

When someone is talking jail talk, they will often exaggerate the story for comedic or shock value. This can be easy to spot if you are familiar with the language of jail. Some words and phrases to look out for include:

– I was so high I thought I was Superman

– I killed a man

– I’m going to jail for life

These stories are often filled with exaggeration and are not rooted in reality. If someone is telling you a story that sounds too good (or bad) to be true, it’s probably because it is.

Listen for Inappropriate Bragging

How to Tell Whether it is Jail Talk or Real Talk

It may be jail talk if the person you’re listening to is bragging about things that are inappropriate for the situation and context.

This could include talking about how tough they are, their involvement in criminal activities, or their ability to get away with things.

They may also talk about illegal things, which is a clear indication that they’re using jail talk.

If someone talks in a boastful manner and uses exaggerated language, they are likely trying to prove something and they may be using jail talk to do it.

They might also be trying to fit in by saying what they think other people want to hear or by trying to appear as though they know more than they do.

So, use caution when listening for bragging because it can be a sign of jail talk.

Delusions of Grandeur

Pay attention to the person’s words – are they describing plans or goals that are seemingly impossible to achieve? If so, they’re likely talking jail talk.

Delusions of grandeur are sometimes used as a coping mechanism to escape feelings of helplessness.

They can make a person feel powerful and in control by thinking big and imagining themselves as capable of anything, no matter how unlikely it seems.

Jail talk often involves grandiose statements, like ‘I’m going to be a millionaire’ or ‘I’m going to be famous.

These types of statements have little basis in reality and should be taken with a heavy grain of salt. While jail talk can be entertaining, it’s important to keep in mind that it isn’t rooted in reality and is just an act of escapism.

Obscure References and Allusions

Making obscure references and allusions is a surefire way of telling if someone is talking jail talk or real talk. In jail, everyone is trying to one-up each other with their street cred and knowledge of gangster movies and rap lyrics.

But in the real world, people don’t have the time or patience for that kind of nonsense. They want to talk about things that matter to them, things that are relevant to their lives.

So, if the person you’re talking to starts dropping references to movies like “The Godfather” or rap lyrics by Nas, chances are they’re doing it to try and sound cool.

Real talkers will stick to referencing things that most people will be familiar with, like current events, popular culture, and everyday experiences.

Assess How the Person Treats Others

One way you can tell whether the person is talking jail talk or real talk is by observing how they treat other people.

Do they respect everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., or do they disrespect people solely based on these factors?

Jail talk often tends to be disrespectful, and jailbirds will often disrespect those who are different from them.

It’s also common for someone in jail to be downplaying their situation as much as they can while attacking others who are in worse positions than them.

Real talk usually involves treating others with respect and kindness. People who are speaking the real language will be able to acknowledge their situation without judging or attacking others in different situations.

They will understand how certain groups have been oppressed throughout history and won’t be quick to pass judgment on someone else’s lifestyle choices.

Note Any Attempts to Appear Tough

How to Tell Whether it is Jail Talk or Real Talk

If someone is talking jail talk, chances are they’re trying to come off as tough. Common phrases like, ‘Don’t nobody mess with me’ or ‘you better watch your back’ are classic examples of this.

Other signs to look out for include the use of slang words that sound like they were taken from a prison yard or a street corner. Watch out for things like ‘breaker’ (a way of introducing yourself), ‘shot caller’ (someone in charge), or ‘bare thugs’ (lots of people).

In addition to specific words and expressions, body language such as posturing and attitude tend to be a give away too. Look out for signs like clenched fists, a slouching stance, or an overly aggressive demeanor.

All these things can be tell-tale signs that someone is trying to act tough, regardless of if they are in jail or not.

Identifying Slang Terms

One way you can tell if someone is speaking jail language or not is by the words they use. Jails have their slang and it can be difficult to keep up with all of the different terms.

If you hear words like ‘celly’ which means cellmate, ‘cf’ which stands for correctional facility, or ‘con’ which means convict then chances are it could be jail talk.

Other terms like ‘kite’ meaning a note passed between inmates, ‘lockin’ down’ or ‘shutting down’ which means stopping all movement and activity, or even more offensive words such as “felon” are all common phrases used in jails that you might hear.

Always be aware of the words people use when they talk and research any unfamiliar terms so that you can be sure if it is jail talk or a normal conversation.

Identifying Stereotypical Topics

If you’re still uncertain, pay attention to the topics being discussed. Jail talk will often involve discussing stereotypes associated with people who have been to prison, imaginary menaces or threats, or extremely materialistic lifestyles.

They may also talk about criminal activities as if they were normal and accepted, or exaggerate stories to make themselves seem tougher than they are.

Real talk, on the other hand, will not include this type of conversation. Instead, it involves meaningful discussions about everyday topics like the news, hobbies, relationships, and other important issues.

It is also often more thoughtful and involves people taking turns listening and discussing ideas with each other.

By judging the substance of the conversations being had, you can often tell whether it’s real talk or jail talk – just remember to remain open-minded and respectful throughout.

Manipulative Behavior

Manipulative behavior is another huge jail talk giveaway. Pay attention to how they phrase their words and how they might be trying to subliminally tell you what to do or think.

They often use phrases like ‘you should’ or ‘I suggest’ to make up for their lack of authority but maintain control.

Jail talkers also rely on manipulation via guilt-tripping, wheedling, and emotional blackmail. They want people to be sympathetic and feel bad for them, so they harp on grudges, wrongs and even legitimate issues (like being neglected as a kid) that can be hard to ignore.

On the other hand, real talkers will express themselves honestly without any emotional manipulation.

They’ll detail their struggles without playing the victim card and explain why they have an issue without using guilt trips to reach an understanding with someone else.

What You Should Do After You Have Identified the Difference

You know the difference between jail talk and real talk. Good for you! Now what?

Here are four things you should do to stay safe.

  1. Understand Why Jail Talk Exists
  2. Don’t Let Others Define Your Real Talk
  3. Reframe the Conversation
  4. Take the Time to Reflect on the Difference

Understand Why Jail Talk Exists

Before you learn how to handle jail talk, you first need to understand why it exists in the first place.

Put simply, jail talk is a way for people to test the waters. It’s a way to see how far they can push boundaries and get away with it. It’s also a way to let off steam, and communicate things that they wouldn’t normally be able to say out loud.

That’s why it’s important not to take jail talk too seriously. People are just testing the waters, and they’re not trying to hurt you. The best thing you can do is ignore them, and walk away if necessary.

Don’t Let Others Define Your Real Talk

Don’t let other people’s opinions of your real talk hold you back. Just because they don’t understand it doesn’t mean you should stop speaking your truth. That’s when you need to speak it even louder.

There will be plenty of people who try to shut you down, but don’t let them. Instead, use their negativity as fuel to keep going.

Just because they don’t get it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep doing what works for you. Remember, real talk is all about being authentic to yourself.

Reframe the Conversation

When you identify jail talk, the next step is to reframe the conversation. This means responding to what was said in a way that allows you to have a more authentic and constructive conversation with someone.

First, take a step back and think about what the person was trying to communicate before jumping into an argument about why their statement was wrong or misguided.

You can then pause and think if you want to go deeper into the issue or simply move on and focus on finding common ground.

What this does is it encourages both of you to look at the same subject matter through different lenses – and it gives you both an opportunity to work together towards a solution, rather than getting stuck on an endless loop of disagreement that leads nowhere.

Through this process, you can find resolution and understanding instead of furthering any potential conflict.

Take the Time to Reflect on the Differences

Now that you’ve identified the difference between jail talk and real talk, it’s important to take the time to reflect on these distinctions and why they matter.

Doing so will help you recognize when conversations are headed down the wrong path and give you the tools to turn them around.

Think about how jail talk might be affecting your relationships with friends, family, and colleagues. What is it costing you? Have you been engaging in jail talk without realizing it?

How can you change your language to ensure that future conversations are constructive rather than destructive?

Reflecting on the differences between jail talk and real talk will also help you better understand yourself. Where is this behavior coming from?

Do any of these behaviors remind you of people in your life who may have perpetuated such behavior? Taking the time to reflect might provide some insight into why such conversations happen in the first place and how to move forward differently in the future.


When trying to discern whether someone is speaking real talk or jail talk, be sure to pay close attention to their choice of words and the underlying message they’re conveying.

It’s also important to consider the context in which they are speaking and the overall environment they are engaging in.

Finally, when in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and assume that someone is engaging in jail talk until further evidence suggests otherwise.

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