"A person's life can be compared quite nicely to the four seasons of the year. This blog is from someone in the Winter of Life enjoying the fruits of his "Summer and Fall" and looking forward to assisting the growth and nourishment for the next generation.

My Father and Grandfather passed on their wisdom through their actions and their stories. This is probably be the most impactful way to pass on wisdom. But the written word can have an affect on lives that extends beyond the memories of a couple of generations. This blog is an attempt to reflection on my life experiences and pass these reflections to future generations of my own family as well as any others who might come across these pages.

Tuesday, October 27

What do you really mean?

One of the many things separating humans from other species is the ability to communicate effectively with others. Originally, I imagine communication was very basic. One grunt meant, “I am hungry.” Over time it became important to convey just how hungry we actually were. Surely there was a difference between, “I am starving and on my last ounce of energy. Feed me before I collapse.”, and “ I am starting to feel hungry pains, but can go for a while longer before I will really need something to eat.”. Maybe it was the difference between one grunt and two. Today we use other descriptive words and adjectives. We might say, “I am starving.” or “I am kind of hungry.” .

Before I tell you where I am going with this, allow me another example. Take this test. A little boy has been playing outside. On a scale of 1-5 with 1 being the least, rate how dirty he actually is based on his mother’s different exclamation when he comes in the door.
“You are filthy.”
“You are a mess.”
“You need to clean up a little.”
“Come here and let me wipe your face before we sit down to eat.”
Assuming it is the same little boy, you would guess he either needs a long hot bath or a brief wipe of the dish cloth.

As we go through life, we all develop a style of talking. Some people view life in the extremes; things are huge not big, they are tiny not small, something never happens, something always happens. Seeing the same event or object, some will habitually underplay it, “The mountain wasn’t so big.” and others will overstate it, “The mountain was huge.”. “The pain in my stomach is severe versus I have a pain in my stomach.

Over time, our friends begin to understand how we express ourselves. They understand that when Tom says the fund raiser was a huge success, he means they made some money. When he says the event was an abysmal failure, he really means they lose some money. When Janice says watch your step, there are a few rocks ahead, everyone knows things are going to be perilous. It is all in the words we use.

“So,” you say, “what difference does it make? Why the big deal?

Actually it is no big deal until you need to convey something important where the correct evaluation is absolutely necessary. The wife heard her husband call out, “Help!” But since he often called for help for relatively minor things, she continued with her chores. Later, she found her husband lying on the floor with a broken hip. She had learned that his style was to over dramatize everything.

The wife kept on working even though her head was hurting, even aching. She also seemed to have a fever. When her husband, seeing she was not feeling good, asked, “How are you?”, she replied, “I’m okay.” Unfortunately, she was not okay and collapsed to the floor. She had let a simple cold progress into pneumonia.
The hikers knew Charlie tended to talk in extremes. They had numerous examples such as the time when he declared a path impassable when there was a decaying tree that had fallen across the path. When Charlie came running into camp shouting for them to run for their lives, they yawned and continued to prepare for supper. Except this time Charlie was right as they saw a huge Black Bear descend on them.

Well, enough examples. Hopefully you see that talking in extremes can greatly distort your true meanings and limit the effectiveness of your communication not enhance it. From my view, you should limit the extreme words from everyday use and reserve them for those times when they convey reality.

That’s My view from the Fall.

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