Saturday, May 24, 2014

Packaging Your Message

At some level, it is disagreeable to think about the way that one's words might be received, and to alter those words according to perceived reception.  After all, we then must frame ourselves contingent on our perception of other people's perception of us--that is, we must guess at how they might interpret our message and have a quick mini-conversation with that phantom conversation partner prior to actually communicating.

This is, in a very real sense, how severe anxiety manifests itself, partially because it might in most cases prove impossible to corner all possible interpretations in time to actually communicate.

But it is also disagreeable to contour our speech for consumption at a more guttural level, one that provides the bravado of a good "fuck you" and the satisfaction of outrage.  Why should we cater to others at all?  Why think about how our expression is or is not received?  At an abstract level, the answer is that language is contingent on multiple nodes, each person necessary but not sufficient alone to produce it.  There's no real language without the capacity to understand one another, to have a degree of "inter-subjectivity" -- to be inside each other's heads.

I think the reason we find it disagreeable to change our speech is that we feel as though we're compromising our message, that somehow it isn't as pure or authentic if we change it.  I'd argue, or at least I feel, that this is a highly selfish and almost narcissistic or conceded way to operate.  Making sure that other's understand what you're saying, or what you mean, assures that you get what you want, and it also helps the larger functions of the interaction you may be having proceed--whether at work, a traffic intersection, or in an unfamiliar setting.

It is also incredibly hard to concede what we don't know, at times--say a board meeting, or anytime we want to impress our superiors.  But I'd submit that the capacity to hone in on what we don't know, what remains ambiguous, or what is not being communicated clearly, and to distill it (both the gap, or space itself that isn't being successfully bridged, and also a way to synthesize that gap and move forward), is something that takes time to learn, and that builds a tremendous amount of character.  It certainly isn't always intuitive, especially in a toxic self-centered culture, and it certainly doesn't mean you have failed, if you chose to acknowledge it in real time.

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