26 April 2015

What Was It That You Were Trying To Say

What Was It That You Were Trying To Say

English. What a troubled language. You can use it to communicate but for some reason, when we talk in English to another person who speaks English, they frequently say "what do you mean by that?"

See, I spoke Greek before I learned English. Although my English is now far superior to my Greek, I can tell you one thing for sure. You will never see two Greek people talking to each other and hear one of them say "what do you mean by that?" The reason is ... that the language is perfectly clear. There are no grey areas. They know exactly what the other one said. It's not open to individual interpretation.

Now back to English. Not only does it become difficult at times to communicate the proper message by spoken word, but then we have to turn to the written word. Now we have a real problem. When you have 3 Lawyers looking at the same document and you end up with 3 different opinions and definitions ... there's definitely a problem. 

I've been through many legal battles in my life, and no matter what, one simple sentence can find itself being interpreted as many ways as there are people who are reading it. This ultimately cost money, time, and additional assessment time to clarify what is being written or said. 

Now let's bring it down to the lowest level. Social Media such as Facebook. Someone will make a post, then someone else will comment, then from there ... anything goes. It can turn explosive and aggravating in a very short period of time. And all because of a misunderstanding of what was stated. It doesn't matter how simple it is. It doesn't matter how complex it is. There's always some level of confusion and it frequently gets out of hand.

Suppose I were staying at a family members house for a few days. I go on FB to say: "sure would be nice to have some peace and quiet today." Now ... what I really mean by this is exactly what it says. I may be stressed out, trains, traffic noise, airplanes overhead, the neighbors dog barking, etc. But my Brother-in-law sees my post and replies: "so my kids are too much for you huh?" Then my Sister-in-law chimes in: "well, you're the one who asked to stay here remember?" Now what do I say? They've both taken what I said completely wrong. And even worse ... it is in writing, with no emotional presentation to help.

This "writing" without emotional assistance has led to much trouble. For example, you return a hammer to your neighbor Bob which you have had for a year. You leave a note that says: "here's the hammer I owe you." Now, what kind of emotion is attached to this written statement? Is it smartass? Is it sarcastic? Is it grumpy? Or ... is it more like: "hey Mike, I almost forgot I had your hammer. Sorry my friend, here it is." See, we rarely consider the emotion attached to written word. The same can be said for ancient scriptural text. We don't know the emotion that was attached to it when it was written. 

So, in closing, my final point is to try and be as clear as your possibly can when saying or writing something. Consider the emotion, use adjectives, smiley faces or emoji's. Be as clear as you possible can ... especially in English. Because "plain simple English" ... just isn't. 

Just a thought ... 

~Justin Taylor, ORDM., OCP., DM.