Mixed Messages

We unfortunately live in a society today where we find ourselves side-stepping direct questions and answers due to the fear of being reproached for not being politically correct. More and more I encounter people not willing to give direct answers to simple questions. When they do answer, I find their responses bordering on cryptic. It comes as no surprise to find people not returning calls simply because they don’t want to deal with having to give a direct answer—especially if it has anything to do with the word no. I guess it something like, “By my silence, is my acknowledgement of no.”

A retired school teacher whom I’ve known for some years stopped by my office today to chat. We happened on a subject, because he over-heard a phone conversation that I was just finishing as he walked it. He was shaking his head as he walked into my office. I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “I absolutely don’t know how you manage to put up with the way the public has become.” I informed him that I’ve grown used to it and considered it a sort of business as usual. He went on to say, “I worked for over 30 years in the classroom teaching students the difference between right and wrong.” I empathized with him as I do understand that life in the business world has changed.

I did tell him that I still haven’t been able to acclimate myself to people being so terribly two-faced. They are charming to your face, yet when you walk away, you are the center of a negative conversation. With that said, I really have to work at listening for clues of possibly the contrary in meaning. Sometimes people think me a bit of a question box. The reason I ask more than likely the average, is to attempt to make sure we are on the right track of thought.

Long ago, I read something that made me smile and it stuck. It went something like this. “I know you believe you understand what you think I said. But, what I said, is not what I meant.” If you really think about it, this is more commonplace today than we may want to admit. In your next conversation, listen carefully. What you may think you are hearing could be filled with mixed messages.

Joe Chodur

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