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Taking Things Out Of Context September 19, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Blogging, Life Balance, Mindfulness.

Sally-BrownThe perspective we bring to what we read affects our “take away.”

If we read something when we are angry, we perceive the writer’s words in a different way than we would when feeling calm and peaceful.

We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. ~ Anais Nin

Experiences that come to mind while reading also flavor our perception.

For example, if I talk about a “pothole in the path” while picturing a broken thermos or some other insignificant obstacle, my words may make sense.

Donald-Duck-MadIf a reader stumbles upon my words after experiencing a catastrophic event (e.g., having their home washed away in a flood or mowed down by a tornado), that reader’s experiential overlay will impact their interpretation of my words, and may cause them to conclude, “That’s Just Crazy Talk!”

“We see the world behind our eyes.”

The ability to take things out of context is facilitated when reading blog posts and e-mails because we cannot hear the writer’s inflection.

Donald-DuckaWords written in a calm and soothing tone may be transformed into an angry and hostile diatribe or attack depending on what’s going on in our head as we read.

Our history with the person in question may magnify this phenomenon.

When we like and admire someone, we view their words without suspicion.  If something sounds “off,” we’re apt to give them the benefit of the doubt.

In contrast, if we’re not a fan of a writer, our distrust may season their words, causing them to become bitter, unpalatable, and hard to swallow.

Donald-Duck-BaseballIf a writer’s words rub you the wrong way, take a look at what you’re bringing to the table.

When we leave our hostility and animosity at the door, the world becomes a friendlier place.

A quiet mind, like the surface of a still pond, provides a more accurate reflection.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Social media can be bad for people without foresight, impulse control, self-awareness, and the ability to anticipate consequences. ~ Eric J. Baker



1. sued51 - September 19, 2014

Very true…

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Here’s to quiet minds!

2. Jill Weatherholt - September 19, 2014

Well said, Nancy! Oh, that Eric Baker…such a wise old soul 🙂

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Isn’t he? I loved this comment of his . . . a quotable quote.

ericjbaker - September 19, 2014

I’m officially quotable! I was thinking, “What dope wrote tha… oh.”

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Bwahaha! Fooled ya. 😎

3. valleygrail - September 19, 2014

Great post. I prefer that friendlier place.

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Me too!

4. Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com - September 19, 2014

Where EVER we go….there we are! Instant karma….

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Some people can’t help but stumble over themselves. 😉

5. NancyTex - September 19, 2014

I just had a conversation about this very thing with my buddy, Sam. Projection: where we ascribe intent to someone else’s words. That’s on us, the readers, not on the writer.

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Yes! Projection ~> when X says something in the nicest possible way and Y turns it on its head and has a huffy about it.

Life is easier when we dial it down a notch or two.

6. suzicate - September 19, 2014

The hubby and I were just talking about perception and social media and as a society how judgmental we’ve become. It seems everything is subject to opinion and all think they must input and all must be in agreement…or suffer the verbal (written) wrath. Often after opinions are formed due to perception the whole story comes out, but the damage is already done. Some days I choose silence, not apathy but silence. I don’t think my opinion is necessary for all to hear, especially when it’s based clearly on my perception which might not be the truth.

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

We should have our own opinions and perceptions based on our unique perspective . . . but, as you note, our opinions don’t need to be shared with ALL of the people ALL of the time.

7. Kate @ Did That Just Happen? - September 19, 2014

Taking a look at what we are bringing to the table is excellent advice – and a great way to look at it! My boss and I have been working on this – he was taking things personally, and I called and asked why he was reading all of the emails so rough? Why was he assuming things were bad? It’s been a process but we’re changing the way we read everything, and it helps, taking a look at what we are bringing to the table. 🙂

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Good on you, Kate. People who always see “evil intent” make themselves miserable. Far better to assume the best.

Especially if it’s just someone’s opinion which need not mirror our own.

8. ericjbaker - September 19, 2014

You could write a whole series of posts on this topic. Some folks don’t grasp context in real-live conversation either.

Ted: Oh my god. The line at Starbucks was soooo long today. And they didn’t put as much whipped cream on top as I like. Can you believe that show is not broadcast in HD yet? I’m going to call my cable company and bitch. Did you notice I had to park in the second row today? I always get a spot in the first row, but some asshole got here before me. Oh, and I tried to order that shirt from LL bean but guess what, they don’t have any more of the lighter blue in my size. What the hell, it’s not like I’m deformed or something. By the way, my neighbor got a 2015 BMW 7-series just so he could have a newer one than mine. And his has the better leather. Why does life suck so much?

Dave: Um, you could try to look on the bright side once in a while.

One week later…

Dave: My grandmother died last night. I’m kinda bummed.

Ted: Oh, now who is the one whining, huh? Why don’t YOU try looking on the bright side, Mr. Know-it-all?

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Haha! That’s a great example. Some people have perfected the art of noticing what’s “wrong” without ever noticing what’s “right.”

9. Pix Under the Oaks - September 19, 2014

So true Nancy, so true. I have had an issue with email, texting, commenting on blogs, and writing posts for my blogs. Stuff happens, and misunderstanding happens when we aren’t in a “real” conversation with people. I just prefer to see the person I am speaking with or at least HEAR their voice on the phone. I so dislike texting, which some of CH’s family members think is the only way to communicate. Eric Baker.. so true too. Social media is not for sissies and some of us who bruise easily.

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Glad you enjoyed Eric’s quote. I found it quite quotable.

When we are discussing matters of import, it definitely helps to hear inflections and be able to read facial expressions. When that’s not possible, it helps to read everything in a “kind” voice.

10. In the Stillness of Willow Hill - September 19, 2014

Well said! Our emotional reactions to others ALWAYS tells us about ourself.

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

We see the world behind our eyes. 😯

11. livelytwist - September 19, 2014

So true. Recently, I had an email exchange with a friend. We miscontrued each other’s words although we’re good friends. We blamed it on lack of inflection and ‘baggage’ we were carrying.

Sometimes it helps to distance ourselves from the piece of writing and reread when we’re in a better frame of mind. It makes a difference.

I like the quote by Anais Nin.

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

Lovely share, Timi. If good friends are not always on the “same page,” it’s not a bit surprising that “virtual strangers” aren’t always able to read between the lines in the right way.

I agree, coming back in a different frame of mind (or reading in a calm and soothing voice) makes a difference.

12. I am J - September 19, 2014

As always, Nancy, an excellent post with much to think about. Maybe life is a whole lot simpler than we think. “As within, so without.”

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

It’s great when both sender and receiver understand that bit of wisdom ~ eliminates many a messy misunderstanding.

13. Jim Kaszynski "THE IDEA MAN' - September 19, 2014

So true, did I wake up on the wrong side of….life today? Hopefully we can create a new thought in our readers?

nrhatch - September 19, 2014

In general, whether in “real life” or cyber space, we all benefit when we calm down and refuse to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. Or as Eleanor Roosevelt liked to say (sort of):

“No one can [piss you off] without your consent.” 😎

14. Behind the Story - September 20, 2014

Communication is challenging. Mistakes can happen from either side–the listener/reader who brings his preconceptions to the conversation and the speaker/writer who fails to express himself clearly. It’s hard. After thirty years of marriage to my Chinese husband, I concluded that the Chinese put more responsibility on the listener to figure out what the speaker/writer is saying. (I think it’s related to the structure of the Chinese language.) In English, I think we put more responsibility on the speaker/writer to express himself clearly.

nrhatch - September 20, 2014

When we look at “political correctness.” we see that every speaker/writer is encouraged to take into account the possible sensibilities and sensitivities of all potential audience members.

It’s no wonder we feel as if we are walking on egg shells (hiding land mines).

I am J - September 20, 2014

“Political correctness” in my humble opinion is simply a euphemism for cowardice. We have become a people afraid to tell the truth and our fear has created more fear and more to be afraid of than truth ever has.

There’s a difference between rudeness and truth. Rudeness often intends to offend. Truth, though it may sting, is usually intended to inform or enlighten. It seems to me that our society is suffering from a dearth of “enlightenment” and drowning in a flood of “political correctness.”

nrhatch - September 20, 2014

Wow! I love every word of this comment, J. And agree 100%.

I don’t believe that it is “rude” to tell the truth. Far better than engaging in subtle deception to avoid ruffling a few feathers.

15. beeblu - September 20, 2014

As you say, when something is written, it does not come with the whole context – facial expression, intonation, etc. It’s a tricky business, this communication thing. 🙂

nrhatch - September 20, 2014

Especially when we are encouraged from a young age to consider the sensibilities of potential audience members and shade our meaning before uttering a single word.

Perhaps that’s why I like chatting with children BEFORE they’ve received too much coaching.

16. jannatwrites - September 20, 2014

This is so true, Nancy. Sometimes it is difficult to “read” tone and intent, especially if we aren’t familiar with the writer. This is one reason I prefer to stay away from ranting posts, though I’ve done a few over the years.. In my mind, I see stupidity from a humorous/sarcastic angle, but those who don’t know me could see me as mean and cranky, which I’m usually not 🙂

nrhatch - September 20, 2014

I am confident that the cyber perception many have of me/you/us is skewed in large measure by who “they” are. So if they see you as “mean and cranky,” it’s probably because they are cranky pants themselves. :mrgreen:

That said, I like funny rants (e.g., Kate Crimmons) but steer clear of whiny baby rants that make me want to shout, “Deal with it.”

17. Grannymar - September 21, 2014

Some people seem born to whine. When I encounter them I engage my selective hearing/reading. It keeps me sane.

nrhatch - September 21, 2014

Some people can’t help but stumble over themselves.

18. Three Well Beings - September 26, 2014

I find this particularly true when it comes to reading editorials or anything even remotely political. It can be really hard to to cut through all the bias (mine) and just listen to the content. I don’t even really want to hear something that might change my opinion if it comes delivered from someone I have already determined I don’t like–or respect. At least I know this about me, right? LOL!

nrhatch - September 26, 2014

Exactly! Once we start to see that we have been “flavoring” the message with our preconceived notions, it becomes easier to see the “what is” as it is. And if someone disagrees with our view of the world, we don’t characterize them as a “backstabber” or their opinions as an “attack.” We just agree to disagree.

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