The other day I was relating a dream and referred to a figure in it as “well upholstered”. The words came up out of the word banks in the back of my mind, and even as I said them I wondered how they would be received. Indeed my partner reacted to them, both as they seemed unusual, and for implications that they carried.
I got to watch the excuses come up. I wasn’t talking about a real person. I was actually trying to avoid other words and other issues. I don’t know where I picked up the phrase, but it’s just part of the English language. I’m just trying to convey something using an existing language. While true, none of these is really the point. The point is: what words serve me best in communicating with another human being?
Considering later, I realized once again that verbal communication is complex and subtle. Unexamined there can be collateral affects that may or may not serve me or the relationship in which I’m communicating. It seems important to bring words into alignment with true intent.
While my choice of words often seems automatic, done mostly by habit and on a sort of auto-pilot, without much conscious consideration, some level of my self, or some old program, is continually selecting among various options and possible phrases, expressions, or specific words. There is quite a collection stored away from books read, conversations heard, or engaged in, moves seen. It is an interesting inquiry to ask what aspect of me is selecting among all these? Which level of my being has the microphone?
This is not to add layers of judgement, but to be honest with myself, and others, about what I really want to say at any given time. Sometimes there is an emotional impetus under the surface wanting to come out. Even when its not about something that I’m wanting to keep to myself, I often find that I am using convoluted ways of saying things rather than stating them simply and straight forwardly.
When I stop and consider what the real point is to a question or statement, it seems the spoken words are misleading or confusing, that I am asking something tangentially, hoping the other person will somehow give me the answer I want in spite of my lack of clarity. There is rarely a good reason not to cut to the point rather than circling around it. Its not even about being truly polite, but an old habit of politeness, or more likely some fear of offending.
The literal meaning of a word or phrase is like the frame of a chair. This is wrapped in emotional connotations and visual images, the upholstery and fabric of the chair. Finally they are delivered with a tone, expression and energy that may be a whole new layer making the same words feel warm and fuzzy or hard and biting.
Language is a living evolving web and we *are* responsible for how we use it. This is not about being right, or politically correct, but about being effective and true to our own core intentions. This can best be done by consciously observing how we use words, listening to feedback that indicates we have used words that misrepresent our intentions, and over time cultivating a vocabulary that serves our soul’s expression, rather than being a reuse of other peoples phrases that are repeated without examination, just because they are there.