Thoughts on misinterpretation – the problem of suttleties and having the correct conditions

In my life, I’ve found that misinterpretation is very common.  In fact, its too common.  There was a time when all I had to do is open my mouth and it was minsinterpreted.  Even today, I have a fear of misinterpretation because it was so common.

Most misinterpretation, from my experience, is a misinterpretation of context.  That is to say, it is usually a misinterpretation of a suttle nuance of how a word or concept is interpreted.   Seldom is it over a gross miscommunication or misunderstanding of what something means.  Oftentimes, this is so suttle that its like arguing over a shade of blue, of exactly how dark it is.  I am not lying when I say that many debates I’ve had are over such issues.  These types of debates aren’t really worth having most of the time. 

Oftentimes, what we’re dealing with is not a debate over issues more so than a persons character.  For example, here in the US there is a very strong individualism, of the emphasis on ‘me’ and ‘what I think’.  What ends up happening is that many of these debates are not debates, necessarily, over the differences of an issue but, rather, over a persons ego, over how individualistic they think they are.  It’s like saying, “that’s a light blue” and someone saying, “that’s not true, thats a very light blue” and arguing the point because thats what THEY THINK.  You’re arguing with their ego.  There is a certain personality type that I have learned not to argue or debate with.  Basically, its a strong individualist.  Any debate with that person becomes an issue of ‘he’s right’, basically.  I just agree and walk off.  This personality is very common with males who were in their 20-30’s in the 1950’s-1960’s, I’ve found.

But, sometimes, these suttle differences seems like a big thing though.  The difference between ‘light blue’ and ‘very light blue’ can be as big the difference between ‘white’ and ‘black’.  Again, the context is an issue here – the context of attitude.  A different attitude makes this blue ‘very light blue’ and not ‘light blue’.  Many times, the subject you are arguing or debating changes your attitude which changes how you interpret the context of things.  When this happens suttle differences now matters.   Little things suddenly become big. 

Sometimes, people argue certain points because their pride has been injured in some way.  Usually, this is because you said something that offends or bothers them.  Despite all of what they’re saying and the logic they may use they are really only defending their pride.  When this happens there is no debate, really.  Often, these can get emotional. 

As you can see arguments or debates are often not about the issues or subjects talked about but other things, like ego and attitudes.  In these cases, the subject of the debate is just a means for some other purpose.

Overall, I found that very few people can argue or debate things that well.  This is usually because they are not really debating or arguing an issue, as I said above.  They are displaying their ego, defending their pride, etc. through the debating and arguing. 

I’ve always loved to debate things with people but this is rare.  Too many times people get carried away with things and make it next to impossible.  I should also point out that its not only other people that get carried away but me as well.  Sometimes, I can get very carried away, as bad as anyone else can.  But when I’m with someone where neither of us gets carried away then thats when its a good debate.  This seems to suggest to me that a good debate and arguing over a point need to have the right conditions to be effective.  That is, you can’t just will it to happen.  If the right conditions aren’t there then problems ensue and things go off on odd tangents.  Some aspects to the right conditions would include:

–   Both people need to be in the right frame of mind.

–   The subject of the debate needs to fit the peoples frame of mind.  It’s subject can greatly affect the debate or argument.

–   There can’t be any other interfering elements, like egos and bad feelings.

What does this mean?  Since any debate or arguing requires the correct conditions to be effective, it also goes with everyday life.  Any interpretation of some word, sentence, concept, or issue in our daily life requires the same conditions for us to not misinterpret things easily

But how often are conditions right?  In the modern world we are bombarded with informations, ideas, concepts, principles, points of views, opinions, etc. up the ying-yang.  We’re endlessly overwhelmed with this, that, and the other thing.  Not only that, we’re brought up with 12 plus years of schooling learning every thing under the sun . . . and having to get an A!  I have found that this is not good for creating the correct conditions.  This is probably one reason why misinterpretation is so prevalent everywhere.  We’re just too . . . overwhelmed.

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