By Andrea Arnold

After spending the last five days with my cousins from the land ‘Down Under’ I experienced a “light bulb” moment.

We speak English, and so do they. However, there were”  plenty of opportunity for misunderstandings, missed opportunities for connection and missed learning as we toured them around the valley and got to know each other better.

We had a great time because we stopped and asked for clarification if a word used in conversation didn’t make contextual sense in our opinion. 

I learned a lot.

For example, my two younger cousins told me that my dog was “puffed out.” Instead of being offended by the association we would have with the phrase “puffed up,” I asked for clarification.

They meant that she was tired out from playing. The first drops of rain to hit the windshield, those are driplets.

In another conversation, we found out that they use a word that sounds very similar to awful to describe the innards of an animal, and “How are you going?” is not a way to find out your transportation choice, it’s their way of asking how you are.

It got me thinking. How often are words or phrases used between members of communities, friends or families taken out of context or misunderstood? 

Most of the time this is thought of as a language barrier issue, but just because people speak the same language does not mean the words they use have the same meanings.

Clear communication is a necessity in life. Extending the opportunity to those in your life to feel free to ask for clarification (without fear or judgment or backlash), and then to provide it in a respectful manner is a way that people can work together to better serve the community, friend group or family as a whole.

I believe the responsibility for a clear understanding lies with both parties. If you don’t understand what is being said, or the use of a certain word, ask politely for further explanation.

“Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.” -Yehuda Berg

Wars have been started, friendships destroyed, relationships shattered and families torn apart over words. They are powerful, and we need to be careful to communicate our words with clear intent and understanding while leaving a little room for forgiveness and grace.