FAIL: Communicating and Me

April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of my favorite children books is “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. Despite it being in the juvenile section, there are some very adult-like topics and ideas that it brings up. One of the topics is an idea called “Precision of Language.” The entire purpose of Precision of Language should be to avoid conflict and problems, misunderstanding, and even potential violence. Much of this involves avoiding generalized statements and unintentional lies. For instance, the main character used the word, ‘starving’ and was quickly reprimanded that he was simply ‘hungry.’  “He had been trained since earliest childhood, since his earliest learning of language never to lie. It was an integral part of the learning of precise speech.

Communication is a huge FAIL for me. Every day at work I look at a poem that has been pinned up on the bulletin board and I sigh. I’ve searched the internet to find out who wrote it, but alas, I have come up empty. However, I will present it here for you.


What I think
What I mean to say
What I think I am saying
What I actually say

What you want to hear
What you hear

What you think you understand
What you want to understand
And what you understand

There are at least nine possibilities
for us
to misunderstand!

The first time I read this poem, it really got to me. This is exactly what I go through, every time I open my big mouth. Constantly, I am stumbling over my words, speaking faster than my brain can keep up, and half the time I end up proverbially kicking myself and immediately attempting to backtrack what I spewed from my lips.

Precision of Language is cold and direct. In the book, there is no room for frivolous or emotional ideas, as they don’t present concrete information. It’s the difference between data and feelings – and everyone knows which one is messier.

I am impulsive.

Throughout my childhood and then into my adult relationships, I have said the wrong thing. A lot. I’ve retold events, which then are perceived as completely different stories, but instead of outright lies, they are told with the emotion that I may be currently displaying, which a new set of descriptors and a different understanding than the week before.

I am a blathering emotional wreck.

There’s got to be a balance between these two very different ways of communicating. In fact, our brain even divides up where it stores what is called “dry memories,” is stored in the hippocampus and just remembers facts and data while the amygdala stores the “emotional memory” connected with events and ideas. Is it possible to have a swollen amygdala, or a hippocampus that has shrunk down and withered to resemble a prune? Probably not. I am sure that there is some sort of great neurochemistry answer about how the neurons fire and effect certain parts of the brain differently. Might even be interesting to see how my brain functions compared to say, that of a mathematician. We won’t be doing that anytime soon.

Occasionally my word vomit gets me into trouble. There was a point where I had just learned to shut-up and not say anything, but apparently that’s almost as bad as saying the wrong thing. Since then, I have had a lot of time to sit and learn about myself. I know that I communicate far better than I did five years ago, but perhaps not as well as I could.

I can turn biology into an emotional subject.

I almost exclusively speak from my heart and not from my mind. This makes it difficult to have serious discussions. It constantly puts me on the defense that my little wall of flowery, bleeding heart vernacular will be crushed like the walls of Jericho. Inevitably, they do come crumbling down and I am left a blithering wreck, taking the conversation way too personal and dwelling on it for years to come.

Over the last year or so, I have learned to let things go.

Sometimes you just need to accept that you said the wrong thing, that it got interpreted incorrectly or that there was just some sort of SNAFU in communication. Perfection or precision in language is something to strive for, but often I need to remember that I am human, and while I hold myself to impossibly high standards, I need to just chill out, take a breath and think about what I want to say before I burst out in a tangled blurb of nonsense.


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