If fear is caused by the unknown or the inability to control another’s perception of our actions, then I think it is important to look at the idea of how we present ourselves. Over the last 20 years, there has been a significant change in language. Most of this is the natural progression of communication. As life develops and evolves, ways to describe and explain it and express it must also develop and evolve. New terms are invented every day.
The part that worries me is that we have taken one of the truest and most sincere art forms and have become careless with it. We have not treated communication well. We have taken advantage of it and in may ways we have bastardized it. Our lives have been whittled down from sonnets to 140 characters or less. So much meaning and intent is lost in how we communicate today because we are lazy. Now, don’t misunderstand, I perfectly understand that there is a time and a place for all types of communication. But we have oversimplified our words and over-impressed our personal interpretations on them.
I think my age is showing a bit because there are words slung around by the new generations that I literally have NO idea what they mean. I need to look them up. And perhaps that is where my laziness shows as well. I never felt the need to figure out what something meant and understanding felt natural to me. As I age, I see that I need to find that communication, especially cross generationally, requires a lot more work. I feel like my parents when we entered the age of Wi-Fi. They had no context to what the hell we were talking about—and now I feel the same way. There is an implied expectation that everyone will automatically know what you’re talking about and, now that I am on the other side of this group, I see that there are certain contexts that are specific to certain groups and demographics. So understanding one another requires extra effort.
I’m not suggesting that we turn back the clock on communication because, in spite of my annoyances with our stunted and abbreviated lifestyle, I know that there are many important conversations happening in this new way. I am suggesting that we re-evaluate the intention behind communication again. I am suggesting that we consider shifting our expectation that people will automatically understand us. We can only understand from where we are at. So we have to learn to make allowances.
Language is a tricky thing. George Bernard Shaw said, “The greatest illusion about communication is that it has taken place”. We spend time aggressively shouting our opinions without ever making a point. I’m guilty of that as much as the next person but it is our job to work towards understanding. The expectation that people will automatically do the research to figure out what we mean is a selfish and unrealistic demand. In our quest to dominate time and to talk more (without saying anything) we have turned communication into a power struggle. We have made it a selfish endeavor in pursuit of furthering our own cause rather than a means to reach a common ground. So let go of the demand that people automatically understand us—because they don’t.
Communication is about mutual understanding—and doing what it takes to achieve that. We have mistaken the idea that we don’t need to explain ourselves in how we live our lives to mean that we don’t need to explain what we say. Conversely, we have created and fostered a society that is intentionally obtuse. We like to be offended and we like to pretend that people mean things they clearly did not. And we like to say that we didn’t mean things we clearly did. Intentional skewing of our words is gaslighting.
Say what you mean and mean what you say, let go of your ego and the expectation that people will automatically understand you, leave some room for a level of understanding, and leave room to discuss. And for Pete’s sake stop taking everything so personally.