When I was 3 years old I had no idea what school was. I was pretty sure I knew what it was but being the oldest child I didn’t have any older siblings who could explain to me what it really was. To me the word “school” meant “playground”. There was a pre-school with a public playground connected to it. If my mom said that we were going to the school that meant I was going to play on the swings or brave the slide. One day my parents decided to send me to pre-school. And of course, based on my understanding of what school meant, I was very excited! Then to my horror my mom dropped me off and left me in a room filled with kids I didn’t know. I didn’t understand and I think she was surprised by how apprehensive I was since I was so excited to go to “school”. Over time I accepted this new definition of school and I grew to enjoy it.
The purpose of this post is to talk about words. Words have different meanings to different people. If I say the word “car” I am going to think about my own car but also my mind may drift to the first station wagon I drove but to someone else they may imagine a sports car, a truck, or an SUV. Your image of what a car is will be different than mine unless I explain to you what I am thinking about when I say “car”. We both picture vehicles but the type of vehicle is very different. The same goes with “coffee”. You may picture hot black coffee with cream where I picture a mocha frappuccino.
One time I was helping a lady with her computer. She kept saying she was having issues with her “email” when she meant to say “website”. So when I tried to fix her email she was frustrated with me because her website was still not working. It would be like if she thought dogs were called dictionaries and told me to get the dictionary. She would be upset that I brought her a book instead of a furry animal. Who’s fault is it? Her not understanding the proper name for a dog or me not taking the time to understand what she meant by dictionary.
Our misunderstanding of words and phrases cause a lot of hurt and confusion. Our understanding is based on our life experiences. And your life experience is much different than mine. When I believe I am communicating well and I think the person I am talking with gets me, it is frustrating when their actions show otherwise. It can hurt. Is it my fault for not communicating properly or is it the other person’s fault for not attempting to see things the way I see it.
What I need to remember is that we can’t read each other’s minds. If I want to be understood I need to explain myself but if I am still misunderstood I need to not feel hurt but just understand in the future that I need to explain myself better. We need to show each other grace. Never assume that the person you are talking to knows what a “school” is.