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Lost in translation 2

Our language shapes our reality by setting the context for how we feel about ourselves, how we judge others, how we determine what our possibilities are, and ultimately how we make decisions about the future.

The difference between a hopeful situation and a hopeless situation, a nice person and a mean person, a good day and a bad day, an effort worth making and a risk not worth taking, is often just a matter of the words we use to describe our experiences.

In yesterday’s post, I made a distinction between objective and subjective descriptions.

Here are just a couple of advantages/benefits that you can immediately gain simply by opting for subjective descriptions:

1) You reduce conflict between you and others.

When you describe your experiences objectively, you are taking a position. This implies that you are right and others are wrong even when you don’t intend for others to interpret you in that way.

If I say “you talk too much”, I’m virtually asking for an argument by putting the other person on the defense. Even worse, I may cause them to withdraw from me because of hurt feelings.

By saying something like “I do not have the energy, time, or interest-level to be attentive to what you’re saying right now”, I am putting the focus on me and my inability to listen.

Since I am only describing MY EXPERIENCE, there is nothing for me to be right or wrong about and, consequently, no need to debate anything.

My conversation partner and I would be free to focus on addressing my needs without anyone having to adopt and defend a position.

Our ability to solicit the cooperation of others increases greatly when people don’t have to worry about being seen as “wrong.”

Subjective descriptions can powerfully eliminate such worries.

2) You gain access to a broader range of solutions and you increase your sense of personal power

By keeping the attention focused on YOU AND YOUR NEEDS, rather than on what someone else is doing, you’re far more likely to feel in control and, in turn, attract solutions that are a vibrational match to that feeling.

When I say “You’re too fast”, my assessment is ALL ABOUT YOU. Clearly, there’s nothing for ME to do. Either you slow down or I’m stuck in an unwanted predicament. My verbal description has locked me into a position where you, and you  alone, have the power to solve my problem. In this situation, how could I NOT feel anxious, insecure, and frustrated?

But if I were to say “I am unable to keep up with you”, I would reclaim my power even though, paradoxically, I’m expressing what appears to be a limitation.

Thinking and speaking subjectively would open me to options (ie. I could stop racing, I could split up and go at a slower pace, I could train harder, etc.) that don’t require any changes from the person who’s going at a faster pace than I.

There’s a lot more to how we create our reality through language, but that’s my two cents for today.

What are some ways you can benefit from adopting a more subjective style of communication?

This Post Has 6 Comments
  1. Hi TK , whats your gmail ID ? Wanted to talk to you .
    Could you write something about how to avoid talking to a girl who may not like you back and how not to let rejection affect your self esteem

  2. Brilliant. I use this technique almost all the time especially with my children, to allow them to observe this way of communication and to take through to adulthood would be such a gift to them, which I wished I had been shown at a young age.

    1. WOW! That’s so awesome that you are passing down to them, at such a young age, the liberating concepts we’ve discovered. Just one of the MANY ways in whcih you are brilliant 🙂

  3. Hey TK! I agree with what you’re promoting, but I see the labels the opposite way. ‘You walk too fast’ is subjective to me, because it is an opinion based on the speaker’s decision on what walking speed is appropriate (aka, his/her own). ‘I can’t keep up’ is more objective because it’s closer to stating the fact that ‘we are walking at two different speeds.’ If I said, “I’m walking too slow,” I’d be stating a subjective opinion but still a judgment of reality, not reality. I don’t think that’s as powerful either, given that you’re measuring yourself by an external extreme. So I’d say the ideal is to speak objectively, of your own situation (in my words.) Am I misinterpreting at all? Really like your blogs- thanks for posting!

    1. Hi Kristin,

      Wow! You’re a pretty deep thinker and I like the way your mind works. Thank you so much for your kind words and your stimulating thoughts.

      I enjoyed reading and contemplating your words. There are a few ideas you employed that I’ve already put in my conceptual toolbox. Let me see if I can answer your question and clarify my thoughts a bit more precisely this time around. Then, I’d like to hear your feedback.

      The subjective/objective distinction can get a little fuzzy because those words are sometimes defined and used in a couple of different ways depending on context.

      For instance, sometimes “subjective” is used to refer to statements that are a matter of personal opinion while “objective” is taken to be synonymous with “factual.” Let’s call this “the first definition.”

      For my purposes here, I use the term “subjective” to refer to statements that are made about the individual making the statement. I use “objective” to refer to statements that are made about external conditions or other entities.” Let’s call this the second definition.

      So if I say “George Clooney is the nicest guy in the world”, I would be making an objective statement because the “about-ness” of my claim is directed at George Clooney. Since I would not be making any explicit references to myself or my own personal experience, this would not be a subjective statement. But that interpretation presupposes a usage of the first definition.

      However, in a different sense (the second definition), I would be making a subjective claim since the truth of my statement is a matter of personal opinion which cannot be objectively measured.

      So, which is it? Is the statement subject or objective? To me, the answer to that question would depend on us stipulating what we mean by our use of the terms “subjective” and “objective.”

      Regarding the example I used, you say:

      “You walk too fast’ is subjective to me, because it is an opinion based on the speaker’s decision on what walking speed is appropriate (aka, his/her own).”

      You are exactly right, Kristin. There isn’t a strand of falsehood in what you say.


      Using a both/and approach, we could also say

      According to the second definition of “subjective/objective”, that same statement would be objective since “you walk too fast” is making explicit references that are only external in nature (ie. YOU not me, YOUR speed as opposed to mine)

      As far as personal empowerment goes, I think we generally feel more empowered to causally affect our experiences when we use descriptions that include and involve the describer. It’s very easy for us to forget that our personal feelings and judgements are always a part of the way we are interpreting an event.

      Saying things like “This activity is difficult” leaves the “me” part out of the equation and makes it easier for me to view my experience of hardship as something that is happening to me from the outside.

      Saying things like “I am struggling with this activity” puts “me” back into the experience and brings me closer to thinking about my hardships in terms of adjustments I can make.

      For me, that distinction and it’s possible practical benefits is what gets me excited. And I am totally okay with whatever language one may use to talk about it.

      Lastly, these are just my thoughts. No hard and fast rules here. I always encourage my readers to dismiss any distinctions and definitions I use, if they don’t help them to live better lives.

      I wrote an awful lot here. I hope this addresses your question and comments.

      Just remember: This is NOT a refutation of anything you said. It’s JUST an explanation of what I attempted (and perhaps too imprecisely?) to convey.

      Your thoughts?

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