I know what you mean

I write and talk a lot about communication: about listening, about speaking clearly.  I believe our world, our communities, our families, would be better places if we would take the time and make the effort to articulate our own thoughts and feelings in ways other people can truly understand them.  Likewise, I believe every one of us would do well to listen more carefully to what others say as well as what they mean.

If only it were as simple as listening.  Even listening carefully, I find I do not always – or even usually – get exactly what the other person is saying.

To be fair, I don’t always know exactly what I am trying to say, so how could I be expected ( or expect myself) to know exactly what someone else is trying to say?

If we want “I know what you mean” to make sense, I think we have to allow that it is a relative statement.  Now I cannot help but think of the phrase, “I know EXACTLY what you mean!”

This, I am pretty sure, is a lie.  A well intended lie, but a lie nevertheless.

No, it isn’t a lie, but it isn’t the truth, either.  To say, “I know EXACTLY what you mean” is a statement of sympathy more than it is a claim to understand with all intricacies and nuance of human relationship, everything the other person says.

Because, remember: none of us fully grasp everything we ourselves say.

I feel a little lost right now, so I think I can imagine how you might feel reading this post.  But all is not lost.

I still believe we do well to speak carefully and thoughtfully.  We also need to develop the skills necessary to listen to others.

In addition, today I would add that we need time.  It is very likely we need more than one conversation. In fact, I am pretty sure that the more we presume we begin from a place of disagreement, the more time we owe our conversation or relationship.

Let that bounce around inside you for a while, then let me know what you think.  If you would rather not, that’s ok too.  You could just tell me that you would rather do something else.

And if you said that, it’s ok.  I know EXACTLY what you mean.

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