We may all be aware of words having different meanings and we may not all want to admit it. My friend complained about all the different translations of the Holy Bible. Speaking as a person who knew only one language she snorted, "Why not just write down what it says? What's the problem?" I pointed out to her that the challenge for any translator is always to decide whether the define literally or go with implied meaning. "What are you talking about?" She demanded.
Take for example the phrase, "Hold your horses," it has a meaning of "be patient, or wait a minute, AND it might also be translated literally as, 'rein them in.'" The translator's job is to take into account all the surrounding words and make a good estimation of the intent of the author. In this case the authors are not even around to ask questions of. So for example, the phrase "getting a camel through the eye of a needle." I have heard it explained that the origin of this phrase was "getting a large rope through the eye of a needle," the word for 'rope' being only one letter different than the one for camel. A new age minister made a whole sermon one Sunday on this topic. In my opinion, rope verses camel, in no way materially changes the intent. The author meant to show the difficulty or impossibility of the situation. That's all.
Or is it? Sometimes getting our point across even in English is compromised by double meanings. In a cartoon a man is shown falling through the ice, he yells to his collie, "Lassie get help!" In the next scene, Lassie is reclined on the psychiatrist's couch in session finding her inner pup. Ah yes, if anyone ever asks you for clarification while you are telling a story, don't get mad, be flattered. It means they are trying to understand what you are saying as opposed to making an assumptions. Assumptions can be dangerous or arrogant. When we decide to interpret other people's motives and act on our own assumptions we are playing with fire.
What if I decide the reason I am being ignored is because some one doesn't like me. That may be not true. Perhaps I am being ignored because the other person has had a hard day, just lost a family member or a job, is preoccupied. I have no compassion for their position as long as I remain wrapped up in my own perceived injustice. Perceived injustice is responsible for much of the violence in this world. Who hasn't been accosted on a busy city street by the angry young person demanding, "Are you looking at me?" I've always wondered what the correct answer to that question is. At any rate the speaker is perceiving abuse where none is intended. It's annoying.
Even in intimate relationships communication is ruptured as soon as you start deciding why anyone does anything. IF you need to know, ask. Ask in a way that doesn't make the other person defensive. Asking loaded questions is manipulative not helpful. Being defensive when other people ask you things is another way to damn communication. For example I like to collect old coins. As I was scooping up change for the cash register I noticed an old nickel. I paused to check the date. "What's a matter?" demanded my customer. "Why are you looking at my nickel?"
"Because I have an interest in old coins," I replied. And she proceeded to interpret my interest as some kind of reflection on her. IT was very odd how threatened she was by my interest in the coin. How she immediately jumped to the belief that I was making an assessment of her. Frankly I was done with her, I merely wanted to exchange the nickel for one in my pocket. Although I explained to her why, she refused to believe it wasn't some sort of slur against her.
Clear concise information. I told her I had an interest in old coins. That is the best way to communicate. Deciding what is going on in the other person's head, i.e. her contention that I had a "problem" with her nickel. That is a less effective way to communicate. In fact she was actually being antagonistic. I could have asked her, "What are you really upset about?" Sometimes delving like that gets people to reflect on their own defensiveness. Perhaps she had had her money refused somewhere else? Perhaps she was used to people discriminating against her? If so, I would have been nothing but empathetic . In our small town people can be racist. Soon after I moved here I had eggs thrown at my door, I had kids try to run me off the road while I was out walking for exercise. I have a neighbor next door in Lockwood Valley who posted his white supremacy flag on his home. It is NOT a southern Dixie flag, for those of you who miss slavery, Greg's flag has the full regalia burning cross in the middle. So I empathize. I really do, with people who feel invisible.
A white person told me once he was pleased with Greg for flying the flag, because after all Mexican people put up Mexican flags, French people put up French flags, in his opinion Greg was flying his flag for all the American whites. I would prefer myself, if Greg felt compelled to fly an American flag. And Greg is entitled to feel how he feels. Clear concise information. I respect him for being so much more upfront about his beliefs. I was surprised quite frankly, by the second white who was defending Greg. Such a person I had never known harbored such angry feelings towards minorities. Such victim mentality about being a white person in Southern California. I guess for the sake of business the second man felt unable to fly a white supremacy flag where he lived or at his tow company. Too bad. It's really better when we all know.