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May 4, 2020

The Words We Wear

Being a father blessed to still have both of my parents with me, I often find myself reflecting on my own mortality. I think about what impact have I had, am I having and will I have in the future. I’m humbled by the hypocrisy that life holds as I must reprimand my children for doing what I once did. It is a blessed burden to use your past way of thinking as a crystal ball to help your offspring navigate what is yet to come. 

I’ve learned to walk in the clothing of my parent’s wisdom. I don’t know if it fit me the way they thought it did. The words of parents can save you, yet to kids seem like floatation devices that are itchy and uncomfortable. I think back to life events that felt like nuclear winter – how often my mother’s words have warmed me from the inside out. Bitter cold winds of choice or circumstance where often kept at bay by ill-fitting sweaters father spoke upon me. For the tugging at the collar or complaints about the sleeves not covering my wrist – I realize with gratitude how I was saved from frost-bite…by the words of my father.

As a man, when I speak to our daughters, I try to give them verbal jewelry no man can ever remove. Our youngest is 7, her young ears seem to hang on every word I say when she looks at me. God somehow made me worthy to speak the beauty of truth and self-confidence into a pair of ear rings I hope she’ll never want to take off. 

Our 11 year old princess has exposed me to mental inquisitions more fitting for a court room than a friendly father daughter chat. As she has consistently been a straight A student, I strive to patiently give words of black cloth we can wear as she learns to make judgements better than I did. I continue educating myself for the both of us, using each response to her as a way to sharpen her mind which she will use to carve her own gavel for the world…I hope she learns to pass judgement on situations and not people.

In our 15 year old adult, God has given me a mirror more precise than any silver lined glass. There is no attitude that I have ever had, which hasn’t returned in her female rendition. I whisper 100,000 Egyptian cotton gloves upon her hands, that she may be protected while reaching for her dreams but still soften her touch as she encounters other dreamers along the way. I laugh a veil upon her head that takes the shape of a smile in the presence of enemies and shields her from the rain I’ll never see as a man.

To my 20 year old son, I sow thread into a rope that is capable of carrying his weight and long enough to throw down to those who might need to be lifted. Finer threads I’ve written for him, praying they become his shoe laces, that he might effortlessly stride over things that made me trip.

I’ve had moments when I’ve seen my children tarnish the jewelry my experience paid for and refuse the clothes I’ve gifted from a heart tailor made to fit Gods children. I somehow rest easy as I tug at the sweater my dad gave me. I know what I put in each of their closets. It’ll be there when it gets cold enough.

May 4, 2020

Less points, more connections

Idle conversation can be very easy. When you start to talk about something of substance, it is great to have a goal of understanding or a conclusion in mind. Venting is not a conversation. It is letting someone know how you feel or felt. Sometimes we bottle up things and every time we talk to that person it is like lifting weight onto your chest. In fact, it is an illusion of a spiritual work out. The offense you feel may be unintended or a misunderstanding. Stay ready to speak respectfully and openly. It can be like a game, one in which you preferably play to win understanding on both sides. Unlike most sports, you should never go into a conversation to make a point. Scoring points in a game of basketball can be exhilarating for the crowd and athletes taking shots. The moment you start feeling like you are taking shots during dialog it’s a foul, out of bounds and make you feel like the other person should be disqualified. Although conversations can be exciting, I’ve found, trying to make your point while communicating leads to more defeats than victories. I recommend making connections, not points. Consider this – what if every time you spoke, you envisioned a teammate instead of the competition? You see, if you are on the same team, if they lose…so do you. So you want them to win. Now you’re probably saying, “What if they are being unreasonable or not compromising?” My answer is simple. To carry on a conversation, the weight of the topic is a perception. Sometimes you can’t see the reason someone struggles to see your perspective. But in that realization is the answer. It is your perspective. The conditions that shaped how we see things took a lot of time.  Giving patience and benefits of the doubt along the way is sometimes the only way to reach understanding. Be honest with yourself. If the subject is not worth the wait or the effort…you could end up asking yourself – “What’s the point?”

May 4, 2020

Auto-correct yourself

Microsoft Word (MSW), the popular word processing program, has a feature that helps correct misspelled words. Well, they realized the large number of businesses, organizations and groups that exist are accompanied by their own individual ways of speaking and thus new words would be born…even if they are synonymous to said organization. These words or acronyms carry important meaning, even if the value of that vernacular lies in the minds or hearts of one person. So that brings us to my topic. That is, the Red squiggly line. In MSW the red squiggly line appears under words it deems to be misspelled. It uses MS’s own Encarta dictionary as a judge to decide whether or not a word should be underlined, meaning it is incorrect or doesn’t exist.  To balance this supreme editing control, which is ultimately the power to tell someone “you are wrong, fix it” the company added the ability to “Add to Dictionary”. This add to dictionary allows users to right click (depending on your mouse configuration) on the disapproving red squiggly line and click Add to Dictionary. This instantaneously will update all red squiggly lines that exist within the current document and future documents you open with your MSW program.

I’m writing an essay about life. If life is a stage, let me introduce you to the players I’m addressing.

  • The Encarta dictionary = Moral code defining right and wrong based on what is already known, written, or programmed.
  • Red squiggly line = Displaying disapproval 
  • Add to Dictionary = Changing based on new information, permanently accepting a new definition of right and wrong
  • User = A living person who owns the Encarta, red squiggly line and add to dictionary

I love using Microsoft Word to write. Why? It is for one simple reason. Before all of the grammar editing software’s existed we had the red squiggly line. Oh yes, that faithful companion, ready to let you know at a mere glance you spelled something wrong. As if that wasn’t enough, with one mouse click it will give you alternate words to use in place of your wrong word – helping you avoid the ramifications of misspelled or misused words and the judgement they visit upon you. I find myself entertaining the thought “What would a red squiggly line (RSL) look like for the spoken word. This is for those who understand the importance of conduct as well as content, when trying to communicate. The manner in which you carry yourself is often the reason why people enjoy speaking with you…or run, duck and dodge your conversation.

Think about the applications of a verbal RSL! Phrases such as “Who do you think you are talking too!”, “You can’t talk to me like that!”, “Excuse me!” would drastically decrease. Also, the immediate or slow but certain backlash that follows verbal assaults would dwindle – direct or passive aggressive. Please understand, I’m not addressing those times when you mean to offend or use your words as weapons. I’m speaking on those times when you regret what you say as soon as you’ve said it…or shortly after the fact of saying it. Such moments when you realize something could have been worded better are fleeting…except when they cause permanent damage to the relationship. 

One popular thought for resolving any situation that might cause conflict, including communication, is one of the Golden Rules – Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. I hate to be the one to tell you this (no I don’t, I love it) but that is a horrible idea to apply to everyone when you talk! People have hearts and minds that are radios that experience and memories have finely tuned. You might hear only 88.1 FM whilst others are strictly 107.9 FM. If your only way of communicating is how you want to be communicated too – then positive conversations will be limited to like-minded or very tolerant people. Tolerance is a role of the dice. Some mature into very flexible demeanors, taking almost everything with a grain of salt. Others, hearts on sleeves, chips on shoulders are quick to scowl or offer an aggressive rebuttal. Such is life.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is probably the closest and most popular way of stewarding how you move thoughts from your brain through your mouth. There are many thoughts and acronyms around the subject of EI. I can sum it up in one sentence, Think before you speak; about you, the person you are talking to and the potential common and uncommon emotional impacts affecting you both. You might think this is an oversimplification – but this is a magazine article, not a dissertation. Instead of seeing how many fancy $5 words I can squeeze out of this Fayette County Public School education; I’ll give you 3 easy steps to help spell check or rather speak check what you say before you say it.

  1. In the absence of knowledge, have empathy. Refusal to do this means you have a high level of A.I. No, not artificial intelligence. Arrogance and Ignorance. Only the truly arrogant have a totalitarian view in which they believe they know everything they would ever need to know about you, the situation and thus you should be subservient to them whilst speaking. These folks monopolize conversations. Which brings us to I for ignorance. Thinking you already know something, is the best way to ensure that you never will. Chose empathy and open the gate way for an incredible conversation. 
  2. Consider who you are talking to. Using the empathy from step one, consider what you do know about the person. Mentally adding the experiences you share and don’t share is a great place to start. Believe it or not, next 4 items can all have the same impact on a person’s ability to hear or listen to you (combine 2 or more and watch out!):
    • Volume – Intensity or compassion can trigger raised voices. Consider this. When approached by loud voices some of us become emotionally and intellectually deaf. We see moving lips and an opportunity to ignore disrespect. We have practiced nodding and agreeing…until you leave which will inevitably be followed by a sigh of relief.
    • Word usage – Extended vocabulary or big words can clutter. There’s no need to talk down or up. Talk parallel by noticing if the person you are talking to squints or scrunches their brow or moves lips to one side of their mouth.
    • Tone – Some people are hypersensitive to inflexion, detecting sarcasm or feeling patronized. Human beings learn how to anticipate bad and avoid it. Many negative experiences, physical and non-physical abuse, is ushered in with harsh tones. 
    • Profanity – It should go without saying…but s#*t Happens! It just doesn’t have to happen every time you open your mouth. I know it is “just how you are” but why is that more important than who you are talking too?
  3. Listen as if a test is going to be given on everything they are saying. The fact is, it will. Information is a gift. If they provide responses or information to you, it is a present. If you then act like they didn’t offer this, because you weren’t listening, you refused the gift. Rude!

Oddly enough, it is free to pay attention, both to yourself and others. Have a clear purpose when you communicate. If it is important enough to talk about, spell check…or speak check what you are hearing and what you say before they hear it. You’ll have more meaningful conversations and fewer regrets.

May 4, 2020

3 easy steps to better communication

  1. In the absence of knowledge, have empathy. You can never know everything. Only the truly arrogant have a totalitarian view in which they believe they know everything they would ever need to know about you or a given situation. Your assumptions can monopolize conversations. Thinking you already know something, is the best way to ensure that you never will. Chose empathy and open the gate way for an incredible conversation. 
  2. Consider who you are talking to. Using the empathy from step one, consider what you do know about the person. Mentally adding the experiences you share and don’t share is a great place to start. Believe it or not, next 4 items can all have the same impact on a person’s ability to hear or listen to you (combine 2 or more and watch out!):
    • Volume – Intensity or compassion can trigger raised voices. Consider this. When approached by loud voices some of us become emotionally and intellectually deaf. We see moving lips and an opportunity to ignore disrespect. We have practiced nodding and agreeing…until you leave which will inevitably be followed by a sigh of relief.
    • Word usage – Extended vocabulary or big words can clutter. There’s no need to talk down or up. Talk parallel by noticing if the person you are talking to squints or scrunches their brow or moves lips to one side of their mouth.
    • Tone – Some people are hypersensitive to inflexion, detecting sarcasm or feeling patronized. Human beings learn how to anticipate bad and avoid it. Many negative experiences, physical and non-physical abuse, is ushered in with harsh tones.
    • Profanity – It should go without saying…but s#*t Happens! It just doesn’t have to happen every time you open your mouth. I know it is “just how you are” but why is that more important than who you are talking too?
  3. Listen as if a test is going to be given on everything they are saying. The fact is, it will. Information is a gift. If they provide responses or information to you, it is a present. If you then act like they didn’t offer this, because you weren’t listening, you refused the gift. Rude!

Oddly enough, it is free to pay attention, both to yourself and others. Have a clear purpose when you communicate. To do that, you must pay attention. Your conversations will be more meaningful and you will experience less regret.

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