Aug 302018 0 Responses

Sometimes I Hate What I Write Too

It was wrong. There was a physical reaction in my gut the first time I read it. Wanting to give the author the benefit of the doubt, I read it several more times. Each time it was equally wrong as the first. How could the writer be so blind?

Had it been a post on Facebook, I could clearly communicate my disagreement with a well-crafted comment.

Had it been on Twitter I could have equally responded in 120 characters or less.

But it was neither of these. Instead, the words I was reading was from a book manuscript that I wrote.

When I first got the call about doing the audio version of my first marriage book, Friends, Partners & Lovers, I was excited. It sounds cool to say you are in the studio recording the audio version of the book. The publisher asked me if I wanted someone else to read the book and I laughed. I can’t imagine listening to my book being read by someone else. Of course, I would record it. About thirty minutes into the first recording session, the cool factor had quickly faded. Standing in one spot and reading for seven hours is not cool. Continually self-correcting or being corrected because of slurred words, mispronunciations, and mistakes is not fun. But we got it done.

With my second marriage book, Happily: 8 Commitments of Couples Who Laugh, Love & Last, about to hit the stores, last week I was back in the studio recording. On multiple occasions, I came to a line, read it, and then stopped. Something didn’t sound right. I went back and read it again. And again it didn’t sound right. Had this happened a few months earlier in the process, I would have made a notation and had the editors change the wording. But at this point, the book is locked. Words can’t be changed. So I kept trying to figure out what I was trying to say. And each time I found it.

Sometimes I was misreading a word–I was saying “should” when the text was “shouldn’t.”

At other times, the pacing was off. I was putting emphasis on the wrong part of the sentence which slightly changed the intent.

In a few occasions, I just didn’t understand the words until I put them in the larger context of the paragraph and suddenly the individual sentence made sense.

While the book can have mistakes and the ideas can clearly be wrong, having been edited this many times by this many people, most things are going to be logical and grammatically correct. Yet at times, I still struggled to understand the point. And they were my words in my book.

Think about this–if on occasion I struggle to understand the true intent of words that I have written, how much more difficult is it for you to understand what I’m trying to say? Of course, you are going to misunderstand, misread, or just not grasp my intention. In those moments, miscommunication will happen. And that doesn’t even include the times in which I’m certain to misspeak, miscommunicate, and not fully understand what I’m trying to say even though I’m the one talking. Beyond times of poor communication, there are many situations where you and I will simply disagree. That doesn’t mean one of us is stupid or evil or ill-intended. It just means that we are different and have differing views.

Yet we rarely consider this. Instead, we:

  • assume our first reading/hearing of information
  • confidently believe our understanding is right
  • quickly demonize others
  • rarely seek clarification or understanding
  • never consider we could have misunderstood or be wrong

This is horrible when we do it to strangers on social media, but it’s horrific when we do with friends, family, and co-workers. But if I can’t understand myself, how often do I fail to understand others?

We must assume most disagreements are simply failures to communicate. Not until we are absolutely certain that we have understood not only the ideas of another but also their intent can we begin to determine if we agree or disagree with them. And only after that determination is made could we even consider the possibility that they are something more than just wrong or different.

This takes a lot of work and sadly, most of us are simply too lazy to communicate well. So instead, we take the easy way–assume we understand, know we are right, and judge everyone who seems to disagree with us.

We should do better. We should do the difficult, humble work of good communication–listen, ask questions, seek understanding, assume good intent, minimize differences, and maximize common ground. It takes more energy, but it breeds better relationships.

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