Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner


Originally posted on February 8, 2016

“I know you believe you understand what you think I said but I’m not sure that what you heard was what I meant!” (I encountered this line on a button back in the early 1970s when lots of slogans were put on lots of buttons. T-Shirt printing wasn’t so easy then.) What we say that seems obvious to us may in fact be not at all obvious, and may be taken several different ways.

There is the technique of checking out the intention of the other before taking offense. Of refusing to be buffaloed by your own premature conclusion: “How did you mean what you said? I am not sure how to interpret it.” Asking such questions could save a lot of misery. Point is that messages are often sent with the best of intentions and yet may be distorted inadvertently in the transmission. It illustrates the complexity of communications and how the whole shebang can go haywire.

Imagine all the opportunities for mis-communication in all kinds of doings from intimate relations to international relations. How a message is worded can give unintended offense.

For example, my mother-in-law got flowers for her 100th birthday. On the flowers was a tag “designed by (name of lady working at the florist). There was another card tied on with some ribbon that had my mother-in-law’s name. On the inside was the name of the people who sent the flowers. Point is that it’s a bad design. The name of the floral designer is irrelevant to the recipient, but it seems that this is who the flowers were from. The real donors might never be seen. This is an old lady with poor eyesight, for goodness sakes, and even if she wasn’t old, the design of the “cards” was poorly done. The donors’ name—from whom the flowers came— should be prominent. The designer is irrelevant to the recipient.

In summary, we make a lot of assumptions in interpersonal relations, the main one being that the other person “meant” what we hear him say. But in fact we might be mistaken. Check it out.

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