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Apr 24, 2004 6:10 pm Scott - re: We just want to be liked!
Rebecca & Ken Aspinwall

You are a guy who won my friendship months ago. Thank you for all the good you have done for me and others.

Out of the four items you gave us, let me expound on two of them: [1] Assume good intent and [2] Give context.


I think we are well advised to follow this path. It's because most people really do mean well. If we see something that looks fuzzy or questionable, there is a good way to approach this. Just reach for clarity and ask questions designed to gather what the person means. Don't be unfair and try to force your own perception against them. Give them a chance to fill in the gaps and give details so that you/we get the right picture.

Some people brag about reading between the lines. I simply urge people to read the lines and forget the guessing games. All that we care about is what is real and we should allow the originator of any statement to have the chance to create their own understanding and their own intentions be made clear. We need to avoid assigning any meaning to what others do that may be contrary to their original intentions and also allow them to make appropriate modifications.


Yes! When I was earning a degree in Sacred Literature, one of our professors constantly urged context, context, context. That lesson alone was one of the most valuable lessons on how to interpret events and messages. When we ignore context, we are throwing away valuable clues that give genuine meaning to a statement. When we ignore real context we are forcing conclusions that have no valid merit. Ignoring context only creates unwanted difficulties.

Here's context. Let's take two people who live in different parts of the world. Today, it is raining in both places, but one region has a warm temperature and the other region is below 50 degrees.

Both people have rain. One person might desire to go outside in the warm climate and feel the rain. There is no discomfort for them, but the other person would feel a cold discomfort in their rain.

What if these two people got into a useless argument where the person in the warm climate judged the other by their own experience. If the place and conditions of these places are not considered, then any conclusion would be taken out of context and would not be valid.

I am a network marketer. I've heard people slam this industry. Upon further investigation, we find that the slammer had their own weaknesses and failings. This person is blinded by themselves and refuses to admit that others have enjoyed great success in the same industry.

Some succeed. Some fail. Who should be believed? Who lacks credibility? Who has credibility?

Religion is the same. One person is raised in a very legalistic environment and they wrongly assume that all religion is like this. Someone else may have grown up with the grace concept and not be able to understand how the other person feels. It takes a person who has abandoned the farce of legalism and embraced the truth of grace in order to understand why these two other people look at religion in drastically different ways.

The best context we have is in knowing that different people come from different backgrounds. We need to avoid getting stuck in our own little worlds and be willing to embrace a greater experience.

As I tell my wife and others, "You are not the center of the Universe. You are a part of the Universal Experience and you have to understand that you have a role to play and you must allow room for other players, too. Do not make broad judgments based on your limited experiences."

Ken Aspinwall

> Scott Allen wrote: > Rebecca & Ken Aspinwall wrote:
>> Before we go any further, I want to tell you how difficult it is to use the written word to convey our feelings. It is too easy for misconceptions to happen when we cannot hear voice tones that may or may not indicate invective. >

>Ken, et al.: >

>It can be difficult to use the written word to convey feelings. Isn't it also extremely difficult to even identify your true feelings in the heat of a face-to-face conversation? And even more difficult to articulate them clearly and accurately?

>It has been my experience, and there is a great deal of supporting research, that with a little training, online communication can actually be a far more effective medium for discussing emotionally volatile issues. But you have to know and practice some ground rules. >

>You are never backed into a corner online. Face-to-face, you can end up stumped for an answer, feeling like you have to fill an awkward pause. This frequently causes people to lie or simply to say things that aren't indicative of their true feelings. How many times in the real world have you wished you could take back what you said? There's no Backspace key in the real world. >

>You don't have to answer immediately! I turn off my automatic send/receive in my e-mail, and whenever I'm writing a potentially volatile, sensitive, or just length post on Ryze or elsewhere, I compose it off-line, save it, and reflect on it before sending. After you write something that's emotionally charged, let it sit for at least 10-15 minutes. Cool yourself down, get centered, and read what you've written in a calmer state of mind. 9 times out of 10, you'll completely re-write it (and that's a good thing). >

>Assume good intent. I know that's easier said than done, but it's easier done online than in person. If something you read upsets you, don't start writing!. Remind yourself, "assume good intent". Re-read it, thinking what the best possible thing was they could have been thinking/intending when they wrote what they wrote. You can't do that in person. ("Excuse me, could you please repeat that? What you said really pissed me off, and I'd like to hear it again and see if I can make it not piss me off.")

>Give context. Context creates meaning. All too often, we just write short little bursts without framing them. Make no assumptions about what the other person knows about where you're coming from. If it's important conversation, it doesn't have to be super-short. It's a dialog, not an executive report! ;-) If you give people context ("When I was growing up, my mother taught me...", "My last boss always used to...", etc.) This will help people not only understand what you're thinking, but why. And we are all more understanding/empathetic/compassionate when we know why the other person is thinking what they're thinking.

Of course, there are dozens more tips for dealing with emotionally charged topics that are not unique to online communications. I won't go into them here, but I will leave you with one additional thought (adapted from the prayer of St. Francis):

"Seek not so much to be understood as to understand."
Thank you, Ken, for being so open about all of this. I hope it triggers a great learning experience for all who read it.

- Scott -

Private Reply to Rebecca & Ken Aspinwall (new win)

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