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Semantics games vs. effective communication...wdyt?


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Am I nuts to feel like positive statements invite debate?  As in, I say, "Blah blah blah."  And Person B says, "That's wrong," vs. "I think that's wrong."  Am I being too picky?  I mean, I realize this is a habit many of us might have.  I've done it, quite a lot in the past, but have been trying to work on that and will adjust if I'm called out in the moment.  But I talked with Person B about this recently and they don't see how "That's wrong" vs. "I think that's wrong" are any different in regard to the tone of a conversation.  Am I expecting too much to want some adjustment there?  Or do I just "translate" the intent in my mind and respond accordingly? 

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that depends.  are you talking a "the sun rises in the west" - "that's wrong"   vs some "highly controversial theory" - "that's wrong"?

you will find for anything not a cold hard fact (there are many "theories" that are taken as cold hard fact - but are just theories)-  you will get along better in life if you preface it with 'I believe"

trying to explain that to someone with whom you are having a disagreement?   is it really worth your time, attempting to explain the difference in nuance?

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1 hour ago, CES2005 said:

Am I nuts to feel like positive statements invite debate?  As in, I say, "Blah blah blah."  And Person B says, "That's wrong," vs. "I think that's wrong."  Am I being too picky?  I mean, I realize this is a habit many of us might have.  I've done it, quite a lot in the past, but have been trying to work on that and will adjust if I'm called out in the moment.  But I talked with Person B about this recently and they don't see how "That's wrong" vs. "I think that's wrong" are any different in regard to the tone of a conversation.  Am I expecting too much to want some adjustment there?  Or do I just "translate" the intent in my mind and respond accordingly? 

 

I would try to convey to Person B that the difference is in how the statement is received - not just by you in particular, but by people in general. They will make their point more effectively by using "I think that's wrong" due to human nature. Explain that, while they themselves may not see a difference in regards to the tone of the conversation, most people will and will 'hear' their point more easily if they make it diplomatically. Depending on the person and the relationship, I may or may not periodically share articles and such that bolster my way of thinking. 

If you don't enjoy having such conversations with this person at all, then by all means quit having them as much as possible! But if you do enjoy them, then yes, translate the intent and respond accordingly. You might even model the correct wording the way you do when a child uses incorrect grammar. 

Child: I brunged my rabbit to school yesterday! 

Me: You brought your rabbit to school, how fun! 

Person B: That's wrong! 

Person A: Let me give you an example of why I don't think that's wrong . . . 

Edited by katilac
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While I understand that it can change the tone of the conversation to say "i think...", I do not find it helpful (or pleasant) to carry on a conversation with someone who is more concerned about how I say something than on what the meaning and intent of what I have to say is. I know someone who will read a new book on communication and then conversations will focus on what the wording that particular book says should (or should not) be used (although the person would not have given a second thought to the wording before reading this book).  People around this person find that they have to spend some much time and energy on not using certain words (should, always, never, you, etc.) and using other phrases (starting every sentence with "I feel...") that all of the meaning and intent of the conversation is lost.  This person, often wants to follow a particular rule but not really deal with what the rule is about.   

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13 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

While I understand that it can change the tone of the conversation to say "i think...", I do not find it helpful (or pleasant) to carry on a conversation with someone who is more concerned about how I say something than on what the meaning and intent of what I have to say is. I know someone who will read a new book on communication and then conversations will focus on what the wording that particular book says should (or should not) be used (although the person would not have given a second thought to the wording before reading this book).  People around this person find that they have to spend some much time and energy on not using certain words (should, always, never, you, etc.) and using other phrases (starting every sentence with "I feel...") that all of the meaning and intent of the conversation is lost.  This person, often wants to follow a particular rule but not really deal with what the rule is about.   

 

But for some people how you word it does affects what they perceive as your meaning and intent.  I know someone like that, who always talks in absolutes, "this is wrong, this is this way, that is that way".  I do not perceive his intent as inviting conversation, rather it comes across as "I am so arrogant as to think I know everything so don't bother trying to convince me otherwise".  If it was an occasional thing, I might not perceive it that way, but that is how this person talks on all occasions.  I'm not the only one who gets that impression.

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It does depend with whom I converse. "I think..." lets the other person know this is my personal opinion and I am fully aware that other people may have another take on the situation which is perfectly fine and I invite other points of view to ponder. It does sound different to me when a person declares with absolute certainty, "That's wrong!" There seems to be less room for debate - at least in the speaker's mind.

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Some people are just concise, in their thinking and their speaking.  They see introductory phrases, such as, "In my opinion..." or "I believe..." as superfluous.  Such words are just fluff because they don't add any information, and they may make it seem like I'm not certain about my own beliefs.  If the subject matter is subjective and/or controversial, then I don't need to state the fact that my thoughts are my opinion or belief.  Of course they are.  If you (the person I'm talking to) feel strongly about your beliefs, then my adding a bunch of cushy words to my statements won't stop you from trying to convince me that I'm wrong.  I'm open. Go ahead.  Prove it.

Note: I switched to first person to show a possible train of thought of such a person (I know several). I don't typically just tell people they're wrong. Though, when I am speaking to one of these concise people, I drop the "I believe...s" and "In my opinion...s" because such phrases demote my views on the topic (in their eyes).  I do use "In my experience..." because that adds credibility to what I have to say.

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It can be bad either way. My dh has a habit at work of saying, "I don't disagree, but...." and then saying exactly why he disagrees. As if prefacing it with "I don't disagree" will trick the person into thinking he is agreeing with them? Drives me BONKERS when he uses it with me. 

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2 hours ago, Suzanne in ABQ said:

Some people are just concise, in their thinking and their speaking.  They see introductory phrases, such as, "In my opinion..." or "I believe..." as superfluous.  Such words are just fluff because they don't add any information, and they may make it seem like I'm not certain about my own beliefs.  If the subject matter is subjective and/or controversial, then I don't need to state the fact that my thoughts are my opinion or belief.  Of course they are.  If you (the person I'm talking to) feel strongly about your beliefs, then my adding a bunch of cushy words to my statements won't stop you from trying to convince me that I'm wrong.  I'm open. Go ahead.  Prove it.

Note: I switched to first person to show a possible train of thought of such a person (I know several). I don't typically just tell people they're wrong. Though, when I am speaking to one of these concise people, I drop the "I believe...s" and "In my opinion...s" because such phrases demote my views on the topic (in their eyes).  I do use "In my experience..." because that adds credibility to what I have to say.

 

The "convince me I'm wrong" jumped out at me.  For the record, this is definitely over issues of opinion or belief.  Anything from musical tastes to faith.  And I guess my whole stance in general isn't ever one bent on convincing anyone of anything, but sharing me.  "I love this song, I think this social issue has merit in XYZ way (centrist here), or here's what I find amazing about my faith tradition."  And then enters in any flavor of positive statements.  I've been at a loss how to continue the exchange without refuting them.

And yes, I should know their intent regardless of the words coming out of their mouth.  Person B said that not too long ago.  That just doesn't compute for me, but I'm trying to sort out whether it's just a style mismatch or I'm expecting too much/too little, or any number of other mitigating factors.

I could (should??) learn to sidestep it like katilac suggests.  I'm not looking for crowd sourcing to beat them over the head with!  I'm the sort that will read the book, then apply it on my end and hope it helps.

 

Edited by CES2005
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Is Person B a specific unnamed person, or is this a general trend that happens with lots of different people who have few traits in common?

My answer will vary depending! If it's a specific person doing this and it bugs you, then your first step is to determine whether you want to speak openly about this because it's a small thing or start reconsidering your relationship because it's symptomatic of much bigger issues.

If it's a general trend, then it might be wiser to reconsider your entire approach to conversation if this keeps coming up and annoying you.

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Depends completely on the statement. Some things are just incorrect. It is unnecessary to prefacing pointing that out with hedging phrases like "I think", "I believe" or "In my opinion" .  I prefer concise and direct. Other things may be debatable or a matter of opinion; in that case, using "I think" makes sense. 

Can you give an example?

ETA: Hedging is a typical communication pattern for women. Men are usually more direct.

Edited by regentrude
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I find it misleading when someone prefaces a fact with "I think." Similarly, it's misleading when someone turns their opinion into a positive, definitive statement when it's opinion.

I've read that Americans are now worse at distinguishing between opinion and fact. My suspicion is that this may have something to do with the way that many people (and I second what Regentrude said about it being rhetorically common among women) to preface everything with softening opinion lead ins like "I think..." and "It's just my opinion, but..." while at the same time other people state completely untrue or opinion based things as absolutes. When both of these are so common, no wonder many people now struggle to tell the difference.

Edited by Farrar
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1 hour ago, Tanaqui said:

Is Person B a specific unnamed person, or is this a general trend that happens with lots of different people who have few traits in common?

My answer will vary depending! If it's a specific person doing this and it bugs you, then your first step is to determine whether you want to speak openly about this because it's a small thing or start reconsidering your relationship because it's symptomatic of much bigger issues.

If it's a general trend, then it might be wiser to reconsider your entire approach to conversation if this keeps coming up and annoying you.

It is a specific unnamed person.  I've expressed how I hear the different phrasings and what I feel the differences between a conversation and a debate are, and during that exchange is when they said I should know their intent regardless of the words coming out of their mouth.

ETA: I could definitely use skill-honing; I don't see that and my question as mutually exclusive.  I'm more than happy to assume it's just me, but I've tried that and been left with the "something's not quite right" feeling, and it's tiring.

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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

Depends completely on the statement. Some things are just incorrect. It is unnecessary to prefacing pointing that out with hedging phrases like "I think", "I believe" or "In my opinion" .  I prefer concise and direct. Other things may be debatable or a matter of opinion; in that case, using "I think" makes sense. 

Can you give an example?

Me: I love this song.
Them: That sucks, listen to this.

This is never about data and facts, but whatever for it takes, it's that sort of black/white phrasing.  (Ok, rarely about facts.)  

Edited by CES2005
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1 hour ago, CES2005 said:

The "convince me I'm wrong" jumped out at me.  For the record, this is definitely over issues of opinion or belief.  Anything from musical tastes to faith.  And I guess my whole stance in general isn't ever one bent on convincing anyone of anything, but sharing me.  "I love this song, I think this social issue has merit in XYZ way (centrist here), or here's what I find amazing about my faith tradition."  And then enters in any flavor of positive statements.  I've been at a loss how to continue the exchange without refuting them.

And yes, I should know their intent regardless of the words coming out of their mouth.  Person B said that not too long ago.  That just doesn't compute for me, but I'm trying to sort out whether it's just a style mismatch or I'm expecting too much/too little, or any number of other mitigating factors.

I could (should??) learn to sidestep it like katilac suggests.  I'm not looking for crowd sourcing to beat them over the head with!  I'm the sort that will read the book, then apply it on my end and hope it helps.

 

I think the bolded sentence is the crux of the issue.  You’re trying to share yourself.  You’re expecting that the other person will take what you said and *add* to the conversation and will be gentle with you because you’ve exposed your *self* to them, not just *facts*.  You aren’t expecting an argument about how your *self* is wrong.  

I speak in your style a lot.  I like a conversation to go this way:

Person A: Oh, I love corndogs!  Especially how the batter gets extra crispy around the stick!  

Person B (if they love them, too):. Me, too!  I love that as well!  I mostly like how you can add ketchup bite by bite!  (This furthers the conversation and fosters a connection between each person.)

OR

Person B (if they don’t like corndogs): Really? That’s interesting. I never much thought about the crispy part of corndogs  You know, I don’t much like corndogs, but a chili dog, now that’s a little piece of heaven.  (This also furthers the conversation without making Person A feel like they’re left hanging just because the two like different things and it also fosters a connection because while they don’t both like corndogs, there is still common ground that they share.)

I do NOT like this sort of response:

Person B (who hates corndogs and has no clue how to foster a connection with another person):.  Oh no. Corndogs are so bad.  They taste like one big chemical on a stick.  I never eat them.  (Person A now feels exposed and a little bit stupid and, frankly, sorta hates Person B right now.)

If person B is close to Person A and actually feels that corndogs are bad for Person A, there’s still a way to be kind about it:

Person B (who hates corndogs and still wants to foster a connection with another person):. Corndogs!  I never knew that about you!  That’s one of those guilty pleasures types of foods, huh?  It bothers me a little bit to hear you say you like them.  I’ve heard cordogs are so bad for you.  Have you ever heard that?

23 minutes ago, hornblower said:

I'd be tempted to channel Judge Lessner "in your opinion" from the Good Wife. & reply with "in your opinion"
Or "Hm. That's an interesting *opinion*" "Thank you for sharing your *opinion*."  & emphasize the word opinion. 

 

I think you need to tell your person in your life that when you give an opinion, you are not sharing a set of facts with them.  You are looking to foster a connection—to find common ground—to further a conversation and keep the ball rolling.  Sometimes people just don’t get that.  They think you’re just exchanging random facts at each other.

If this person is close to you (like a spouse), you could try to explain that you’re sharing yourself and it makes you feel raw and exposed and resentful when they refute you so strongly.  

And I like what Hornblower said about saying dryly, “Well, that’s one opinion...” every time they bluntly refute you.

Or you can simply say, “Ouch.  That was kinda harsh.”

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Quote

It is a specific unnamed person.  I've expressed how I hear the different phrasings and what I feel the differences between a conversation and a debate are, and during that exchange is when they said I should know their intent regardless of the words coming out of their mouth.

 

"Okay, but I don't know your intent because I'm not a mind reader. Your blunt statements are rude and hurtful. You need to stop."

Quote

Me: I love this song.
Them: That sucks, listen to this. 

 

"Wow, I don't know why you'd say that to me. That was really rude."

When they try to argue, just repeat: "That was really rude" again and again. Because it was REALLY RUDE.

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2 hours ago, CES2005 said:

Me: I love this song.
Them: That sucks, listen to this.

This is never about data and facts, but whatever for it takes, it's that sort of black/white phrasing.  (Ok, rarely about facts.)  

My mother does a version of this. It's not this blatant - it's more like...

Me: I love this song.
Mom: This other song is the best song ever written.
Me: I'm not so into that song.
Mom: Then you haven't heard it.
Me: No, I have, but I'm not into it because reason.
Mom: It's the greatest song ever written. It's (insert over the top praises).
Me: Imma walk away now.
Mom: Repeats herself...
Me: I'm in the other room. Did you notice?

Sigh. Sometimes I get dh in on it. If dh says, "I'm not so into that song," then she pauses and listens. "Gee, why, Farrar's dh, do tell..." Insert eyeroll.

I think some people are just in their own narratives and can't listen to certain other people's narratives. Or sometimes anyone else's at all.

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1 minute ago, CES2005 said:

I'm sorry you have to deal with that, Farrar.  😞 

I'm sorry you're dealing with a friend who's even worse. She's not always so bad. We went to Europe and she was on her best behavior earlier this year. 🙂 I really do roll my eyes and leave the room now when she decides to get that way. People can be lots of things. Shrug.

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12 hours ago, CES2005 said:

Am I nuts to feel like positive statements invite debate?  As in, I say, "Blah blah blah."  And Person B says, "That's wrong," vs. "I think that's wrong."  Am I being too picky?  I mean, I realize this is a habit many of us might have.  I've done it, quite a lot in the past, but have been trying to work on that and will adjust if I'm called out in the moment.  But I talked with Person B about this recently and they don't see how "That's wrong" vs. "I think that's wrong" are any different in regard to the tone of a conversation.  Am I expecting too much to want some adjustment there?  Or do I just "translate" the intent in my mind and respond accordingly? 

If a person says “that’s wrong” it’s safe to assume that’s what they think. Putting “I think” in front of every statement is a bit redundant. You’re adding an unnecessary layer. 

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Well some relationship communication guru type books recommend prefacing statements with I think or I feel.  I’m more comfortable with that myself but that’s also because I’m often not super definite.  I’m a p personality type so I always see multiple sides to stuff ... even when there’s probably only one side.

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6 hours ago, Garga said:

 

I think the bolded sentence is the crux of the issue.  You’re trying to share yourself.  You’re expecting that the other person will take what you said and *add* to the conversation and will be gentle with you because you’ve exposed your *self* to them, not just *facts*.  You aren’t expecting an argument about how your *self* is wrong.  

I speak in your style a lot.  I like a conversation to go this way:

Person A: Oh, I love corndogs!  Especially how the batter gets extra crispy around the stick!  

Person B (if they love them, too):. Me, too!  I love that as well!  I mostly like how you can add ketchup bite by bite!  (This furthers the conversation and fosters a connection between each person.)

OR

Person B (if they don’t like corndogs): Really? That’s interesting. I never much thought about the crispy part of corndogs  You know, I don’t much like corndogs, but a chili dog, now that’s a little piece of heaven.  (This also furthers the conversation without making Person A feel like they’re left hanging just because the two like different things and it also fosters a connection because while they don’t both like corndogs, there is still common ground that they share.)

I do NOT like this sort of response:

Person B (who hates corndogs and has no clue how to foster a connection with another person):.  Oh no. Corndogs are so bad.  They taste like one big chemical on a stick.  I never eat them.  (Person A now feels exposed and a little bit stupid and, frankly, sorta hates Person B right now.)

If person B is close to Person A and actually feels that corndogs are bad for Person A, there’s still a way to be kind about it:

Person B (who hates corndogs and still wants to foster a connection with another person):. Corndogs!  I never knew that about you!  That’s one of those guilty pleasures types of foods, huh?  It bothers me a little bit to hear you say you like them.  I’ve heard cordogs are so bad for you.  Have you ever heard that?

 

I think you need to tell your person in your life that when you give an opinion, you are not sharing a set of facts with them.  You are looking to foster a connection—to find common ground—to further a conversation and keep the ball rolling.  Sometimes people just don’t get that.  They think you’re just exchanging random facts at each other.

If this person is close to you (like a spouse), you could try to explain that you’re sharing yourself and it makes you feel raw and exposed and resentful when they refute you so strongly.  

And I like what Hornblower said about saying dryly, “Well, that’s one opinion...” every time they bluntly refute you.

Or you can simply say, “Ouch.  That was kinda harsh.”

 

Yes.  All of this.  Well said, Garga.

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I think sometimes very specific words like that make a difference, but mostly, it's the general message that comes through that's important.  Is it a message of interest in what you're saying (even if they disagree) and maybe even some humbleness on their part when applicable?  Or is it just about them getting their point across and shutting yours down?

NOT GOOD:

Person A:  I like Senator XYZ.  She seems to be doing a great job!

Person B:  I think she's terrible.  I wouldn't vote for her if my life depended on it!

GOOD:

Person A:  I like Senator XYZ.  She seems to be doing a great job!

Person B:  What are your reasons for liking her?  I voted for the other candidate, but I'm interested in hearing your thoughts!

Of course if you know the person well and know their way of talking, mannerisms, and the attitude behind it, you might know that even if they speak very bluntly they still care about your opinion and welcome a good debate.  But those people do need to be careful when they're around people who don't know them!

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I had a situation in which I felt like something was an opinion (what prior experiences were best preparation for the Presidency) and that the other parties felt were facts. 

IOW, it was a FACT that one experience produced a better president.

The 2 experiences being discussed were senator v governor, so it had nothing to do with Trump lest anyone jump to that conclusion... this was NOT a Trump discussion.

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I would interpret that as opinion, too.  And an interesting topic for exploratory discussion, actually.  But if the other side(s) was/were responding the way you describe, I know I'd either feel cowed or frustrated depending on who the other person was.

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9 minutes ago, CES2005 said:

I would interpret that as opinion, too.  And an interesting topic for exploratory discussion, actually.  But if the other side(s) was/were responding the way you describe, I know I'd either feel cowed or frustrated depending on who the other person was.

I felt like a frustrated cow*. LOL 

Like my opinion was MOO, bc they felt like facts were on their side.

They thought it was a fact that ABC and XYZ were the best presidents and they had been QRSes prior to their presidencies. Done. End of "discussion."

(*why is it such an insult to call someone a cow in great britain? Is it bc they are big and perceived as dumb?)

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1 hour ago, unsinkable said:

I felt like a frustrated cow*. LOL 

Like my opinion was MOO, bc they felt like facts were on their side.

They thought it was a fact that ABC and XYZ were the best presidents and they had been QRSes prior to their presidencies. Done. End of "discussion."

(*why is it such an insult to call someone a cow in great britain? Is it bc they are big and perceived as dumb?)

I guess so, lol.  Large, slow, and presumably unintelligent.
Yeah that's sort of how it is, and there are a few other people in my life that do something similar on pet subjects.  Maybe I'm doing something wrong?

 

Edited for a rogue comma.

Edited by CES2005
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