Why he says things he doesn’t mean, why she doesn’t say what she feels
Here’s a nice example of why we mean what we say but you don’t think I mean what I say, a PSA courtesy of the British:
Click on the thing to make it larger, its worth it >>
Makes a person wish they had Google Glass equipped with a handy new rendition of a borderline invasive translator that screens all spoken syntax for chivalrous disdain.
It also reminds me of some frequently asked questions, namely:
1) Why doesn’t he mean what he says? and
2) Why doesn’t she just say what she means?
To answer these questions, let’s look into the facts about cognitive development in human history (just bear with me):
What we need to understand is that humanity’s greatest achievement is NOT our ability to speak and write and document and verbalize our thoughts. This is a horribly sad myth and far from the truth.
What distinguishes ourselves from other mammals, at least speaking in terms of brain structure, is not our prowess for language but our truly incredible abstract thinking capacities (Check out On Language by Chomsky, basically the living Einstein of language science).
Its important to understand this difference because our language abilities are actually miserably underdeveloped in comparison to our supernatural capability to form ideas from things and experiences we may not even have ever seen, felt, touched, breathed or experienced. We’ve made great progress over the years, that’s true, but considering the fact that our capability for language materialized out of thin air about 100,000 years ago when our ancestry traces back 65 million years, its a lot of lost ground to cover.
Not only are we still lousy at using words to say what we mean, we’re also pretty bad at processing what words mean. In fact, when you talk, the other person’s brain is only paying to the words coming out of your mouth 20% of the time. The rest of the 80% is focused on your body language, how you’re saying what you’re saying and physical distance (or lack thereof). No wonder why we’re often guilty of not only misinterpreting each other, we also tend to “put words in other peoples mouths” because encoding words just doesn’t come as naturally to us.
So, what to do? Should you pick up miming? Stop reading? Stop learning languages? No, that’s not what I mean obviously (although I guess at this point how do you even know if what I’m saying will reflect what I really mean?? Except I choose not to go down this road for reasons of conservation).
If you don’t read anything else in this article, read this. This is the takeaway: Stop taking so much stock in words. Stop analyzing your texts. Stop analyzing your emails, your facebook messages, his or her statuses, your twitters. Stop reading into what people said and calling people out on what they did or didn’t say. Stop accusing people of saying something they didn’t mean and stop standing there sad and confused, giving in to some lady who says you never do what you said you’d do just because she’s been your wife for 30 years. Stop making excuses for yourself and complaining to your friends that Well, she said she was okay, when you knew without a doubt that she was sad as fuck. If there’s nothing you can say, there’s a reason why there’s always something you can do. Say it with me: words always fail (at least for now).
Want to form some really great, understanding relationships built on real efforts to improve communication? Tune in to body language, to nonverbal signals, to your own uncertainly intuitive yet uncannily accurate sense of whether you should keep doing what you’re doing or make a change. When you’re talking about important things with someone, register their facial expressions, how they’re holding themselves, what tone of voice they’re using, their eye movements, the spaces between you guys and pay attention to how you respond nonverbally.
Whatever you do, stop relying on words to make your entrance or take your leave. Remember, words always fail. Let’s stop saying sorry like a broken record and just reach out and genuinely hug someone like we’re sorry. Let’s stop taking things “at face value” and moronically suggesting others to do the same. I promise you, start doing this and you won’t not be able to remember what was decided, who felt what, who was uncomfortable with what, if that thing is really just a casual thing you don’t have to go to if you don’t have time or something I’m just going to consider important regardless because it seemed like he cared. It takes some practice, but the good news is that even if you’re a bit rusty we have millions of years of hardwiring on our side. Its like riding a bicycle. We just have to get on.
Peace and love (and also some hugs),
Let’s stop with the he-said she-said’s. Lets spread the love and share this message.