Sitting in the dentist chair this morning, the same dentist chair I’ve sat in for the past 11 years, Dr. J walks in: “Sara! What’s new with you?” …“Ah, so the yoga thing, right? That’s what you’ve chosen to do with your degree? Well, there’s always time to put it to use, someday maybe you will.” I felt my jaw clench as I looked up from the chair into Dr. J’s dentist binoculars looking down at me. Swallow it Sara, he’s gripping a metal mouse-sized hook that’s about to go in the same mouth the next words you utter come out of. I took a deep breath and pretended not to notice the backhanded stab at my pursuits. As much as you can actually have a conversation with a dentist as they work on your teeth, Dr. J has always impressed me with how much he’d remember about what we talked about the last time I came in. He has also always been so supportive and kind.
I think people generally mean well, but sometimes do not consider if their intention matches the message they give. Without over-thinking it, it is up to the receiver to read between the lines at times, in order to get the big picture. For that, I believe the best tool we have is our ability to empathize. I really don’t care what my dentist thinks about my choices; guess what Dr. J? I also like sticky candy too. However, despite the initial defensive reaction I felt, I let it go almost immediately. Since yoga is my passion I do have a yearning to defend it; no, not many get it, and for those I won’t waste my breath. Since I have known my dentist a while, I do not think he intended to unsettle me with his words, so I moved on. This story is a typical experience of something that can be taken the wrong way, the right way, out of context or possibly even elevate a situation. The idea of connecting intention and message can help to more accurately communicate.
Here are some points to consider:
1. Messages do have an emotional value if backed by an emotional intent. Is what you are about to say meant to elicit an emotional response? If so, proceed with confidence and caution. I like to think of “feelings” to be like a dancer with music. If I am the one sending the message, I’m the one picking the music. The receiver of my message is the dancer, who, if receiving my message correctly, dances to match my music. You cannot always account for how your message will be taken, but know your intent or the impact you want to have and the right words will come.
2. Do not over-think. If someone isn’t understanding what you are saying or keeps taking things the wrong way, it’s a reflection of them and not you. Stay away from the “if” world, that place serves no purpose.
3. Use logic. We are emotional creatures, but we are just as rational. Ask yourself if you are sending or receiving a message through an emotional filter or a rational one. It sounds easy and obvious, but emotions can block logic. Aim to respond instead of react, or appropriately get your message across with transparent logic intact instead of messy emotional content. Logic, not emotion, makes for a better argument (in most cases).
4. Caveman talk. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Say it in plain words. Hints are for hobbits.
5. Think about the moral value of your intention. Does it make you a good person (according to you)? That “according to you” part is the most important ingredient in that question. We all have different values we deem as our moral baseline, from which we make our decisions. Know what yours are, and own them. If you stray, you will only let yourself down and will likely misalign your message as a result.
6. Be genuine. If you want something from someone, say it. Don’t maneuver around to try and manipulate situations, people and things. Most people can tell if you aren’t being genuine with them, but a great way to know is by paying attention to the intentions of the person in question. Over time you will still not be able to clearly define the intentions or moral backing of those who are not genuine. The genuine ones lead with their heart; with time you will recognize them more for their heart than anything else.
7. Lastly and most importantly: LET IT GO (and pick your battles wisely). I spent enough of my college career reading a bunch of philosophers argue back and forth about who is right and why. I dreaded having to pick sides when it came time to write a paper because all sides (usually) made such compelling arguments. I even came to accept the idea that maybe there is more than one right. And maybe that’s okay. It was my job as a college student to convince my professor to give me that A by making an argument for or against a philosophical idea/person/belief, yet there was always a part of me that wanted to type the words: “BOTH OPPOSING VIEWS ARE RIGHT” on an empty sheet of paper, and hand that in. Instead, I had to investigate and break down abstract ideas tic for tack. Bottom line: people are opinionated about their opinions. If your intention is to change someone’s opinion, which most definitely has an attached emotional value, then pick your message wisely and ask yourself if it’s even worth it. You could be like me in college, investigating and analyzing ideas to form a compelling argument…and sometimes it is absolutely necessary to show them what’s actually up. OR you could turn in a single sheet of paper, give up a round of applause and say “BOTH OPPOSING VIEWS ARE RIGHT.” And then, LET. IT. GO. Just let it go man, be Zen. Know when to let it go. And do let it go. You’ll feel free.