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Old 12-04-2009, 07:02 PM
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ImaginaryIllusion ImaginaryIllusion is offline
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Canada
Posts: 1,945
Lightbulb Lunchroom Trauma

Originally Posted by Ceoli View Post
I'm just going to address this point because for me, it's the most important and speaks to how these breakdowns happen.

The issue was in the language used, not the assumptions made. There were no unstated co-premises. The premises were directly drawn from the language used in the original statements, and further supported by additional replies. If a person says one thing but means something else, then it is that person's responsibility to clarify. What I drew were false conclusions because the language that was used was not expressing the intent of the person using it. That is not the same as making false assumptions. And all of that would have been easily solved if things were clarified rather than taken as an attack.
This is an area where you and I may have to agree to disagree.

Language is not an exact thing. The same words can have different meanings depending on context, both in conversation and the larger society. And I really don't care how much training in English you, or anyone else may have. I don't care if this had been brought up by Strunk and White. No single person is the end all be all authority of what the words mean. And no one, and I mean No One, on this board is expert enough at communication, English, and all regional nuances to be 100% sure of what is meant by any non-trivial expression in an environment such as this.

The poster meant what they meant, and wrote a port attempting to express what they meant. English being imprecise, that expression may be interpreted by a receiver as meaning something different.
You read the post, and drew false conclusions from it.

You're placing all the responsibility on the sender to ensure the words express their intent.

If that is the case, then how did your own statements get mistaken for attacks? What words did you use? How should you have written them instead? Why do you still not realize how your words could be taken for an attack, when that was not your intent, even when people have told you over and over and over again that your comments were being hurtful to them? Could it be for the same reason that the poster of your targeted statement did not understand why you came to your mistaken conclusion that was different from his intent, regardless of how many times your said over and over and over again?

By your own statement above, it would be your responsibility to clarify your intent and change your words accordingly.

And if people are harping on you on this it is simply to hold you to the same standard that you yourself put up for them.

Here's my view:
Communication is a two way street, and the responsibility relies with both the sender and the receiver. The sender may have to revise the expression for the sender to understand the true meaning. The receiver has to feedback to the sender to make sure they actually understand what is being said. BOTH have to be listening....and BOTH are responsible.

You wanted the original words changed. They were.
Others have wanted an apology from you...a part of which you've offered, and it's up to them if they accept that as complete.

Mono has express the lynchpin of this and why he took it as personal...part which even I missed in the very title of the thread.
This may be a good lesson to take away from this. If someone wants to discuss an abstract ideas like language, philosophy, etc, that come up as part of a discussion, then maybe it should be removed from the immediate context of the persons involved and the original thread.

I'm going to wrap this up with a parable from my own life:
In Elementary school, I was having lunch on day. At the table across from me was a fellow A, whom I had considered a friend, but lately he had become involved with other kids that I didn't get along with so well, and joining in with them at my expense. So I wasn't feeling so good about A, feeling as if there had been some betrayal he had visited upon me.
When A opened his lunchbox, he took out a banana that was way past prime. Bad fruit, bad apple thought I...and I made a passing remark at him, "hey, it's just like you A, ...rotten". My intent: To let A know that I thought he had been a 'rotten' friend.

I barely had the words out of my mouth when the rest of the table broke out in an outroar about what I had said, and they immediately started hounding on me about my statement mercilessly! I thought I had told A that he was a rotten friend, ...something which would not be out of line, so I couldn't understand for the life of me why everyone else was so upset at me.

All I could do was sit and stare blankly at them, and A sat staring blankly at me. The ruckus was so bad the teacher had to come over right away, and took A and I outside the room to work out our differences.

Now, I'll put the rest of the context back to explain the Table's side...
In my other post I assume that most people do not believe in the -isms anymore. This had a lot to do with going through school when I did when they were erasing -isms from young minds before they'd take hold. I don't know if the timing was related to the country's spanky new 4 year old constitution which included a charter of rights and freedoms, but suffice to say, -ism's were bad. I knew it, and I accepted it, I embraced it. So had all the other kids in the class.

The school I attended was about as diverse as the class you would see watching South Park. There was about 5 kids across 2 classrooms that would be considered visible minorities.
Since -isms were wrong, no one picked on them, they picked on the redread. (This isn't actually cause and effect...the minority kids were well integrated into the social cliques, and the redhead kid was easy to pick on)

By now I think everyone can see the train wreck coming.
The banana that was way past prime had turned brown. I don't know from where, but A's family would have immigrated at some point from India, so his complexion was a similar colour to that of the banana.

Apparently no one heard me say the word "rotten"...they only heard the word "brown" and they immediately jumped all over me for it. They thought I had just made a statement about A's skin colour, so and concluded I must be making a racist comment and they were going to take me to task for it.

Me? I was bewildered because I could not understand them...I did not understand what they were mad at me for. It simply did not make sense to me why they were so upset at my comment. All I said was that A was rotten, as the banana was rotten.

Eventually, when things calmed down, I discovered what they interpreted. Their interpretation was something to the effect of: A is brown like the banana, so therefore A is rotten like the banana.

Speaking about how language is imprecise, I do not yet know if there is a word to describe the depths of my feeling when I discovered what those other kids had interpreted from my words. Mortified, horrified, crushed, none of them even come close. -isms were wrong, and racism was one of the worst IMO. There simply had been no link in my mind between the colour of the banana and the colour of his skin. It was so far out of my mind it took 12 kids yelling it at me to finally realize that they HAD made that connection in interpreting my words. Not only was it unacceptable to think that way for me, but I had 12 kids attacking me for thinking in a way that both they and I considered morally wrong. The accusations of being racist absolutely destroyed me.

Nothing I say here can really do justice to the emotions I felt that say, suffice to say it was one of the most traumatic moments of my formative years. While I believe A accepted my profuse and immediate apology for what was interpreted, I don't think I was ever able to explain it strongly enough how separate the issue of colour was in my mind.

Was my intent wrong? No.

Were my words wrong? No.

Was the receivers understanding of the meaning different from my intent? Yes

Why? They drew (what they thought) were logical implications due to similarities in colour of the nouns contained in the sentence.

Were their objections based on their interpretation understandable? Yes. They would have made Ceoli very proud. And if the interpretation had been correct, I would have been agreed with them.

Were their conclusions incorrect? Yes.

Did I feel attacked? Hell yes!

Did I clarify my meaning to A and offer recompense? Damn right I did!

Did he accept my apology so that we could both move on without hard feelings, or leftover impressions between him or others thinking I was racist? Yes.

Did I ever get an apology from the 12 kids that jumped all over me? No. It would have been nice though. It would have been great value to me, at little cost to them.

Was this an example of effective communication in a safe environment for sharing ideas? Not what happened in the lunchroom.
The one on one with A in the hallway we could speak calmly and explain exactly what each other meant in both directions...yes.

Would I ever want to see this kind of experience revisited on anyone?? Not even if they were my worst enemy!
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” - Chinese Proverb

-Imaginary Illusion

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