Have you ever wondered why people misunderstand what you are trying to say or do; or sometimes your jokes backfire?
I remembered a few years ago when I had my two adults children following me to run some errands, there would be times when they asked me "why did you respond that way?" or "didn't you understand what that lady was trying to say?" or "why did you say this and that?"…
I told them that I understood perfectly the situation; however, our conversations seemed to be "cross-wiring", or in another words, what I was saying to the other party was not fully understood or appreciated. Sometimes I would walk out totally baffled as to why the person could not understand me…
But I am not the only one. Allow me to share with you an interesting incident that was experienced by my friend just that other day. I was out with a friend while being stopped for a random breath test (alcohol/drug test while driving). She shared this story about "misunderstandings" and "how we / others misinterpreted words". She said that when she first arrived in Australia she was also stopped for a random breath test.
The policemen asked her "Can you count to 10?".
She was baffled as to why she was asked such question? A couple of scenarios came to her mind; was the policeman trying to determine whether:
- She could understand English? or
- Whether she could count / was literate? or
- Was it a request for her to count?
Was it a question of integrity or ability? Or was it a request to act?
During that 1-2 seconds, thousands of reasons/flashbacks were running through her mind, evaluating whether she should be defensive and tell the policeman off for insulting her or simply acknowledge a request to count to 10?
Finally she said – "Yes, I can count from 1 to 10"… So the policeman passed her the breathalyser and told her to count to 10.
Until this day, she is still not sure whether the question was a question of integrity or ability, or a request!
I could fully emphatise with my friend's situation. In certain cultures, when we request for something to be done, we "ask" directly, rather than phrase the request in a form of a question, as a question has the potential to be interpreted differently, depending on that person's perceptions and understanding.
For example, using the similar request, in our culture, it would be phrased such as:
"Please count to 10…"
"I need you to count to 10…."
"Can you please count to 10 for me."
Rather than saying "Can you count to 10?", which is rather subjective, don't you think? No wonder there are so many misunderstandings that we encounter each day.
Your words carry power
Remember, your words carry power and they can be interpreted in so many ways, and depending on who you are sharing your thoughts with there could be many meanings. Be conscious, be aware and be deliberate when you phrase your thoughts into words, especially when speaking to your children.
Make it a habit of using words that empower, uplift and encourage.
I am going to share with you my favourite segment about the power of WORDS: