There are layers and degrees of language and meaning and, a progression to our expression.

We can progress from, “I think I can,” to “I believe I can,” to “I know I can,” to “I do.” Applied knowledge, confidence and ability allow us to test and to evolve through these stages.

We can also go through layers of meaning when we express ourselves to others. “I don’t mind,” to “It’s fine or okay,” to “I enjoy it, appreciate it, that’s thoughtful.” Looking at these statements closely, “I don’t mind,” implies toleration from a self-centered position. “It’s fine or okay,” (with the proper tone) connotes acceptance from the position of a peer or friend. “I enjoy it, appreciate it, that’s thoughtful” and similar statements convey the message of appreciation and gratitude.

Words, thoughts, feelings and actions have meaning. With words, it is desirable to be as precise as practical. Precision reduces or ends confusion and misunderstanding.

Why are so many imprecise with their actions and speech? I believe there are three major reasons for it: First, most people don’t give it any or enough conscious thought. Second, many people do not know the precise definitions of words and use many similar words interchangeably or indiscriminately. Third, the average person has a very limited vocabulary, making it difficult for them to use exact words in context.

If you want to tighten your language and expression, here are some suggestions:

1) Become conscious of your speech patterns. Monitor them for self-centered words and tones of voice.

2) Read or listen carefully before you form an opinion or decide to respond. Be certain that you have read or listened and understood. Ask questions for clarification. Research, ask, go to the library. Do a search on the Internet. Work to move through the progression of think, believe, know, before you do anything.

3) Think before you respond or write. How do you want to explain yourself or respond in this situation?

4) Reacquaint yourself with a dictionary. Especially use it when you want to be precise.

5) Analyze the writings of three groups of people: those you enjoy, those you dislike and those you often don’t understand. Which group are you most like? Why? Also, look at the group you don’t understand. Is it because they use a larger, more exacting vocabulary? With dictionary in hand, try reading their material again and see if you don’t get a deeper understanding.

Tim O’Brien writes continuing-education courses and presents seminars on stress management.


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