finding the right words

We can say all the words we want, but communication requires something extra: the right words. If you don’t explain what you want to say in the language the other person understands, their understanding is going to be limited. By “language”, I mean the broad languages like English, Mandarin, French, etc., but also the smaller subgroupings within each of those.

Region could affect accent, the field of interest could affect terminology, the relationship the speakers have to each other could effect meaning and expression, but there’s even more than that! When we express ourselves, we need to be able to express an idea that they will be able to interpret as the same thing we mean. We need to speak clearly.

However, speaking clearly isn’t an easy skill to master. There’s a temptation to stick to the groups we know and are comfortable with because we are fluent in that group’s patois. In those settings, we know how to express ourselves and we know that when we are sarcastic, they’ll understand it as sarcasm. We can be funny, and they’ll understand the joke. But the problem with that is that people are different from each other. If we only stick to our little friendly groups, we deny oursleves. Talking to someone from a different culture is difficult. If you have similar cultures, or either of you are familiar with how to communicate, it becomes easier. It can range from semi-easy to incredibly difficult.

Yet if we push ourselves, talk to people we might be socially awkward around at first, we’ll get there. It might take months. It will probably take a lot of frustration for everyone involved. But that frustration will be worth it, because at the end of the day, you’ll be able to understand someone else just a little better. You’ll be able to see inside their head just a little easier, and that look may transform how you yourself see things. It’s difficult, but how many people could you learn from and have a wonderful time with, if you just put in a little more effort to understand them?

please please you

We overlook an important factor when we say, “Don’t try to please other people”, and that factor is that we have to live with people. To some extent, we do have to adjust our behaviors to fit into the norm. For example, we typically are pressured to wear clothes, be hygenic, etc. However, more than that, we have a mighty desire to get along with people! And part of getting along with someone is pleasing them to a certain degree. While these are all important facts, there still remains that feeling that giving your life to “please everyone” is wrong.

We are social, caring, and relatively altrustic creatures. It makes sense to do something for another person so that they are more pleasing to you. Yet we can get too caught up in it. We can give and give and not want to express our true feelings for fear that the relationships we have will change too dramatically. It’s way easier to scream and make a scene on your last day of work then on your first, and the reason is that (assuming they don’t fire you) you’ll have to live with everyone afterward. Whether we want to admit it or not, being yourself and expressing your opinions is a risky activity. It provides space for crtique, for disappointments, conflict!

But without conflict, critique, or disappointment, we cannot grow. We should aspire to be respectful in whatever situation to make it smoother and facilitate understanding, but people are going to disagree. If you take a risk and say what you think, sure, you might ruin a relationship or make it awkward. But being in a true, geniune relationship of any kind requires honesty. If it’s awkward, you’ll eventually figure it out and be better for it. If it ruins the relationship itself, there was likely something missing in the first place. The relationships we have with other people should be sincere. Not being true to yourself hurts you but also the integrity of your bonds. So take the risk! Express yourself and be assertive! You can do such great things!