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To Understand and Not Be Misunderstood

A surprising mistake that I have often made is to speak in my native tongue without clarifying myself. Sometimes I do this simply for fun or to play on words (with a friendly intention) but I realize that if someone is unable to understand what I am saying, they might at times, think that I am being offensive. Sometimes a genuine thought may create conflicts unimaginable and this underscores a recent experience that I had:

In Jamaica, it is typical of us to greet a friend who we haven’t seen in a long time by saying, “Yuh dash mi weh”, which translates as, ‘You have forgotten about me.” To me, this is the most friendly thing you can say to someone who you haven’t seen in a long time, but to someone else, it may not be so friendly. In my mind, its funny that someone would interpret this differently, but to someone else, its simply offensive and rude.

The problem is not that I had been offensive or I unintentionally appeared to be offensive but that language, semantics or simply just communication, can have many meanings. Luckily, it was a friend and not say, someone who I work with professionally. Of course, I wouldn’t use such expression in any professional sphere, because its meant for friends and only friends. Not that it couldn’t be another phrase or expression, it certainly could. But the luck here is ‘feedback’. In another case, I may not have the benefit of hearing what the person I am speaking to, really thinks. We naturally have an habit of keeping silent about things that offends us. Maybe for the best.

It feels good, knowing that someone who cares about you, responds the right way and ask the right questions.

‘What exactly do you mean? Couldn’t you have said it in another way?”

That’s good and that helps communication because mutual understanding is important.

By the way, I think that I have written about this before…. Sooo coincidental because I had a similar incident before.

Over the last few months, I have also learnt, first hand, that sense of humor is not the same for everyone. The sense of humor here in the United States, is often different from humor in other places. Which means that things that I find funny may offend others, and things that are offensive to me, may be of humor to others. It’s a very thin boundary, and in some cases if you do not know how to respond, if it’s that you respond by retaliating in anger, it can make matters worse.”em>

But of course, the bottom-line is, I just hope that whenever I speak or say something, if I’m misunderstood, someone will correct me or point out my flaws in a polite way. But that’s understandably a luxury, unless someone is a friend. Its a very big favor.
And I have misinterpreted others as well. Its never a good feeling to have. But its simply a communication thing. We just need to better understand ourselves and others at times.