I Meant to Say

I may talk a lot (some would say I talk too much), but clear and effective communication isn’t my strong point.  There are many reasons for this, including the fact that when I get nervous I tend to babble on and on about nothing in particular, and completely skip whatever point I actually wanted to make.  Also, I don’t like conflict, so when I need to say something that might give offense, I tend to circle around the topic so widely that the person I’m talking to has no idea what I really mean.

But perhaps the biggest problem is simply that there is often a big difference between what I think I’m saying and what the person I’m talking to actually hears.  Because all of us have “personal filters” that can unintentionally distort the meaning of what is being said to us, and sometimes words can have different meanings to different people.  And as it turns out, the communication issues aren’t just limited to my dealings with other human beings.

One of the many advantages to having a dog live in the house is that dogs usually serve as an excellent alarm system.  If someone comes to your door, walks across your property, or even just innocently jogs down the street in front of your house, most dogs will let you know about it.  Loudly.  And that can be a good thing, especially if you happen to be home alone.

So when we brought our new dog, Finn, home a few months ago, I told him that one of his duties (aside from keeping the floor free of food and ridding the yard of vermin) was to serve as a watch dog.  And he took me at my word, quite literally.  One night I heard strange sounds coming from outside our front door and went downstairs to investigate.  Finn was already there, sitting nearby and watching intently as a stranger repeatedly tried to unlock the door and open it.  Luckily, it turned out to be a harmless young woman who was simply at the wrong house, but I still would have appreciated a woof or two out of Finn.  Clearly, I should have asked him to be an “alarm dog” rather than a “watch dog.”  (Although he is very good at watching.  Trust me on this.)

I suppose the lesson in all of this is that I need to remember that effective communication isn’t something I can ever take for granted.  Finn’s interpretation of being a watch dog is a great example of how easily our words and meanings can be misunderstood by others, and how we really do need to be a bit more forgiving when others don’t respond the way we would wish.  Actions and words that we are so quick to take offense at are often the result of nothing more than a simple miscommunication, I think.

fullsizeoutput_53ddSo I will try harder to make myself as clear as I possibly can, whether I’m talking to someone who walks on two legs or four.  Which means I might just have a shot at getting Finn to finally understand that the wading pool in the back yard is actually for my grandson….

85 thoughts on “I Meant to Say

  1. Lol…love the shot if him in the kiddo pool. Cuteness on wheels. There’s a funny saying among old radio guys & gals. It’s, “Communication… it’s just a word.”. Lol. I would’ve been highly suspect of the girl who claimed she was at the wrong house. So glad he is keen to the unusual out there. God’s grip. -Alan

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  2. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when it comes to expressing myself, I am so much better on paper. And in the case of your post, you have said it on paper a thousand times better than I ever could.

    The take away for me is your suggestion to be more forgiving. My default response is a variation of, “Why were you not listening to me?”

    Instead, I want to insert the thought, “Oh, I must not have been clear.”

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    • Thanks, Maggie! That’s what I have learned over the years: not to assume that people understood what I meant and were deliberately doing something different, but to at least entertain the thought that there was a misunderstanding. Because it is so easy to get things wrong! But that is easier said than done…I write my posts mostly as reminders to myself of what I need to be doing. And hopefully, I’ll learn!

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    • He absolutely knows! We just went for a short walk, and when we got back to the yard, he just sprinted to the pool. I assumed he was just going to take a drink, which he often does, but he hopped right in and lay down! So we just let him enjoy it, but then changed the water before our grandson got in. Thanks, Jill!

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  3. To be honest, I saw the title and got so excited because I thought it was written by Finn. As I read I thought his voice sounded different but I kept my thoughts hopeful (or I was in plain denial😂). My apologies Miss Ann.
    Finn does look cool in that pool.

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    • LOL! No worries, Finn will be writing a post again soon. He is already giving me “that look” when I sit down in front of the computer, which means he wants his turn. But I will certainly let him know that you are waiting for another one of his posts! He will like that!

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  4. lol so true, many converse in a roundabout confusing manner … one reason I’m so blunt and pointed as miscommunication can cause much grief. And I love a good debate, where we can both express our opinion and be listened to even if we agree to disagree .. it’s fun 🙂

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    • That’s a good attitude to have, Kate! I sometimes have a problem with conflict, as disagreements were not tolerated when I was a child. But we each have our own stuff to work through, and that’s part of the growing up process. And honestly, one of the traits I value the most in my friends is honesty…even to the point of being blunt. I always know where I stand with people who speak their mind, and I like that!

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  5. I think Finn takes the wait and see approach (maybe). Barking is for alarm, Finn is waiting to surprise the would be intruder.
    Maybe not your communication isn’t being misunderstood, just the action is being taken under advisement.
    I am sure you are very clear that the pool is for grandson. Finn is just making up his own mind as to how and when that pool should be used. You have to admit, Finn looks cute in the pool.

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  6. I read an article by another autism mom that I thought illustrated this perfectly. She kept telling her son to wipe his feet when he came in the house as he was bringing mud in and onto her floor. Dirt continued to be tracked in and the mom was getting frustrated as she felt her son was ignoring her. One afternoon she happened to catch him as he came in the door and noticed that he was very carefully wiping of the TOPS of his shoes with a cloth. Obviously just a communication problem. 😊

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    • That is SUCH a good example!! Her son was doing exactly as he had been asked (in his mind) and she was thinking that he was ignoring her request. And that happens so very often when we communicate with one another. We really do have to keep our minds open to the possibility that others really do think they’re doing the right thing. Thanks for the comment, Denise, and sorry for my late reply. Something is wrong with my comment section…I just saw this, even though it said was posted two days ago!

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  7. I’m known for saying “define your terms” whenever someone starts talking to me and I have no idea what they’re babbling on about. The reverse is true for me, in that I try to be very clear with all humans, animals, and electronic machines as to what I am asking of them. I feel your pain, but love Finn nonetheless.

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    • That’s a good habit to get into, making sure that you get the chance to really understand what someone is saying to you. I only do that when I know it’s important, like at a doctor’s office, but I tend not to do it in everyday conversations, which is a huge mistake. And yeah, I love Finn a lot, even though he does have his own unique take on things!! (PS: sorry for the late response, I just saw this comment! Not sure why they aren’t showing up when they’re posted!)

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  8. You are so right on this topic! People do have their own filters and so many things can be misconstrued. Communication is an art we all must practice on a daily basis. And what works with one person may not work with another; our dialogue is essentially one to one. Kindness goes a long way…difficult topics seem to need an extra dose of empathy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, given our tendency towards misunderstandings, the best way to deal with anyone is kindness and by giving them the benefit of the doubt. And I truly believe that so often, our problems are a result of not communicating properly rather than someone deliberately being mean or difficult. All we can do is try to be clearer, and also try to be more understanding, I think!

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  9. Scooter is a great guard dog. He barks whenever a car pulls into our driveway or even slows down on the road. He barks at turtles crawling toward the pond, bunnies chewing on the grass, or coyotes sniffing about at the edge of the yard.

    The thing is, we are always telling him to stop barking, that these things are not necessarily threats – but he knows that what we are telling him is not really what we mean. What we are telling him is that the world is full of threats – but we get to decide which ones a dog should bark at.

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    • That’s a an excellent point! Yes, we want our dogs to bark at the things we consider a threat, but their job is to point out any and all threats, and our job is to deal with it. Honestly, we expect far too much from our dogs, don’t we?

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  10. Hello Ann! I used to have a Border Collie who, without her being able to see them, had the capacity to very quickly sense when people were of a friendly disposition, and when not. I think some other mammals have this capacity, too — cows are an example.

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  11. Effective and clear communication has really great affects but even you try your best and being too much true and transparent but some will never ever understand you as they way you want them to because they intend to do so especially our seniors at workplace.

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  12. You put it so well in words, Ann. I have the same problem. As a former teacher I am still talking too much. I am glad you pointed out a key problem in communication. What we say is not always what what we actually in the understanding of others communicate. Precision of thought and word is the key.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is, Peter! Personally, I have found that it also works to stop speaking now and then and ask a question or two…the answers we get can help us determine whether or not the person we’re talking to really is getting our point. But I still struggle with this on a daily basis!

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  13. What so many people appear to have difficulties with, is simply accepting that another’s perspective could be quite different from their own. A good dog owner will try and see the world from their dog’s perspective … which can make life so much easier for both human and dog. For some reason, that concept is not so easily applied to humans.

    Example: Our temperatures have been in the high 20s to mid 30s C so we have taken Ray out in the mornings and evenings for his walks, and he is wearing a “onesie” (all-in-one body cover). One perspective would be – why do those people put clothing on their dog in these temperatures? Another perspective would be – that poor dog must have had recent surgery and is wearing that to stop him from licking the incision area.

    In the context of communications, perspective is everything. A person who lost their money in the stock market collapse of the 1930s will likely not trust a bank again. You might be viewed as pretty smart if you stored your money under the bed mattress, while I could be seen as an idiot for putting it in a bank.

    Multi-cultural societies have communication challenges, and I messed up a number of times as I learned that English phrases do not mean quite the same thing in Canada.

    What’s the point of all this? To reassure everybody, who believes they have communication issues, to just step back and consider that there are so many parameters affecting a clear communication. Some you have control over … but many you do not! 🙂

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    • Very good point, Colin! That’s sort of what I meant by “personal filters.” Each of us view things from the perspective of our own experiences and prejudices, so we really can hear the exact same words in a very different way and arrive at very different conclusions. As you say, that’s something we need to remember when we’re talking to people. That and the fact that there is so much we can’t control!

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  14. This is a great metaphor for communication, Ann. I think we all misunderstand and are misunderstood way more than we realize. I can think of a couple examples that happened to me last week. Effective (and sensitive) communication is one of the hardest skills to learn, but we get a lot of chances to get it right, every day. But I don’t think Finn will be leaving that pool any time soon! 😉

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    • I don’t think he will either…he looked so comfortable in it! I’ll just have to let him have it when my grandson isn’t here, and get him to learn to share when he is. But you’re so right about effective communication. It is so important and yet so hard. All we can do is keep trying, day after day, just like you said!

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