15 Jan

I'm Fine. 

How many meanings does that one sentence, that one word, have? 

I'm fine. Never better. Nothing to worry about today...

I'm fine. No, I don't want to talk about it...

I'm fine. That's ok. My feelings don't matter. 

What goes through your head when you say or think this?

An iceberg only shows ten percent of itself above the surface. Ninety percent of the iceberg is hidden below. Ever feel like an iceberg?

Here's another favorite of mine that I like to use that is less controversial (or at least my girlfriend would say so):

I didn't take your money.

Five words. One easy sentence, right? 

Seems innocent enough. How many meanings can you make out of this sentence? 

One? If you are busy, your cell phone dings and you read this text, then you probably just read it and move on. 

Two? Obviously, I'm asking you, so you probably know there is at least another meaning to this sentence. 

Three? Maybe now you are becoming a bit skeptical. You will trust me, but you are starting to wonder.

Four? Doubt has crept in. I'm going to have to prove this to you, right?

How about if I told you I can prove it has at least five different meanings, perhaps more...

OK, bear with me. It is what can be implied when you hear the sentence and sometimes fill in the blanks. Like this:

1:   I  didn't take your money...but I know who did. (This one emphasized the first word: "I." As you listen to it, it implies that, even though I didn't do it, your money was taken and I might even know who did take it.

2. I DIDN'T take your money!  I didn't do it. Leave me alone. Here, this is probably the most common response people will have. I didn't take my money, I don't know who took it, just leave me alone. The emphasis is on the second word: "Didn't." 

OK, get the idea here, let's try more:

3. I didn't TAKE your money. This one sounds like you have my money, but you didn't take it in any ill spirited or mean way. Perhaps you borrowed it or you thought it was a gift. It's like, "Here's your money, you can have it back..."

4. I didn't take YOUR money. Here, you are admitting that you did take someone's money. You may have it there in your hands. But the money you did take was not my money. Maybe you took it from Bob or Frank or Sally.

5. I didn't take your MONEY. Here, you are admitting that you did take something from me, but you didn't take my money. Perhaps you took my watch, my wallet, my car keys. You could have taken all of it, but you didn't touch my money.

So there you have it. Five words, each making the same sentence a completely different sentence. What happens when you don't stop to question, to understand, to ask or clarify? What happens when the only way you communicate with someone is through emails or texts? What happens when you are in a rush and you hear one thing, but the other person meant something totally different? 

It's hard. Communication is hard. For the really important stuff, you need to really stop what you are doing, listen closely, and be prepared to repeat it back, asking for confirmation that what you heard as the receiver is really what the sender is trying to communicate. Don't just repeat the same words. Take the words, listen to them in your head and interpret what they mean to you. Then ask the person if they meant what your brain processed. 

Of course, when someone says they are "fine..." that's probably better left for another discussion... 

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