What is the most important 
thing to know about when 
communicating?

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[Vizzini has tried cutting the rope to kill the Man in Black, but he clings to a rock] Vizzini: He didn’t fall?! Inconceivable! Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Definitions simply matter. When you notice what happens in conflict and difficulties, that is when you begin to understand communication issues. Conflicts are always about a couple of things… There is a battle over opinion and fact, and there’s a conflict over definitions. Have you not experienced the problem of being in a disagreement until the words come forth that, “Oh, I thought you meant…”  It happens all the time, but it is only one new habit away from annihilation.  As it were, there is a ‘magic wand’ in terms of a couple of questions which can change everything.

“I’m going to use them to track him down and thwart him.” “Thwart?” Sarissa asked. “Thwart.” I said. “To prevent someone from accomplishing something by means of visiting gratuitous violence upon his smarmy person.” “I’m pretty sure that isn’t the definition,” Sarissa said. “It is today.” ― Jim Butcher, Cold Days

Every single day we all are busy getting offended, irritated, depressed, and surly; all because we are starting-and-failing at the simplest place.  We aren’t getting the definitions clear.  In the now most famous of all exchanges regarding definitions, Alice and Humpty Dumpty go at it this way,

‘And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!’ `I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said. Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘ `But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected. `When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ `The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ `The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’

Words, of course, don’t mean what we choose them to mean; however, that is exactly how we should function with others.  The way to go is NOT to quibble over words, but rather to find out what they think they are saying.  We all can get sloppy and confused. If we are arguing against what the other person thinks she is saying…well, good luck with that! Best to wave the magic wand. THE MAGIC WAND Here’s the new habit, the magic wand, in a couple of questions. Here’s all you need to say, “What do you mean by………?”   Now, keep saying that for all the words you need to until you get all the meaning; that is, all the meaning the other person is holding onto.  The next wave of the wand works by asking, “So, you are saying that………., true?” When they say, “Yes,” then 90% of the conflict is gone.  Now you can get down to the real issue, not the squabbling and tension over the other person being a JERK.  The real problem is they aren’t a dictionary…and…they don’t get the definitions clear! Go try it! Fred Ray Lybrand

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