Bridges of Thought, Gedankenexperiment #6
Before we translate them into words, thoughts form in our brains as electrical impulses. But what would happen if that current were fed directly into a futuristic computer? Would the machine interpret the pulses the same way our minds do? We depend so much on our personal interpretations to communicate. Suppose we have it all wrong?
We’ve come to agreement on much of our vocabulary. Enter Websters, or more currently, Wikipedia. But a single word can wear dozens of disguises. Bud Light uses the word “dude” to make my point in one of their commercials. I love it!
Think about how the words in an email can be misconstrued without the auditory component of tone. Even tone can be misheard. Ever been accused of insulting someone when you know for sure your heart was in the right place? Language facilitates both understanding and misunderstanding. How can we ensure we converse effectively?
By returning to the electrical impulse stage. “Huh?” you ask. Strip down to the point before the words barrel into the equation, disrupting its purity.
I’ve been trying out a new experiment in communication. Instead of using my personal translation to offer my ideas to another I’m working to use theirs–converting the essence of my ideas into language that is meaningful to them. I think of these interactions as creating bridges of thought. Each word chosen to find communality on a subject, not disagreement. Or at least provide a basis for productive conversation. For only when we stand in a shared space can we discuss what we think about the landscape around us.
A simple example is how I respond when someone is complaining. Generally, I choose not to complain because I feel like I am giving those things I am complaining about more power. I’m aware that many others don’t have this perception and the last thing they want to hear from me is, “Everything you’re complaining about you’re likely making worse just by all the attention you’re giving it.” That would not elicit the response: “You’re so right, Amy. How about I tell you about the fabulous sunset I saw on the way home, instead?”
There are other things I can say, though. Things that honor my beliefs–the essence of my thoughts–and the other’s right, or even need, to complain. Things like: “It’s sounding like you’re hoping your day will turn around.” Or, “It’s so much more pleasant when people are attentive to what you are asking for.” Maybe these comments look like a sneaky way to get someone to take a more positive view but I honestly wish for them to feel cared for and understood, while declining to join them in the reiteration of negative experiences. I like finding these translations that match our different-but-same sentiments. It’s like solving a puzzle. They’d like things to go well for them instead of poorly. So would I. Resonance achieved!
I don’t want to force my vocabulary, my life view, into others’ experience. While valuing my individuality, I honor theirs. But, sometimes when we talk with one another we are really just trying to get each other to agree to our point of view. Guilty as charged! But perhaps with a little work, a little experimentation, we can search for that place where we share a similar vibrational, electrical impulse. And from there choose our words, bringing us to new conversational horizons.