Imagine you’re reading something. (for example- this blog) You read my words, and sometimes you read exactly what’s on the page.  But sometimes, do you ever start to bring your own interpretation onto those words?  Do you read the word “happy” but start to weave what happy means to you, as opposed to what precedes and follows the word “happy” on the page?

Interpretation.  Two people may read the same thing, but get two different meanings from it.  This happens often in literature:  it’s why we have book discussion groups.  There’s more than one way to look at anything (half full/half empty).  But this can get us into trouble.

I often read a word or phrase that I know absolutely nothing about.  Thanks to the internet Gods, I am able to find out the meaning with relative ease.  Knowing the meaning helps me understand whatever it is I’m looking at.  I don’t have a pre-conceived notion or idea yet, because it’s a new concept.  I start with a blank slate.  No interpretations.

But what about words we know the meaning of?  Words we hear and read and use every day?  When you use a word all the time, you start to have a definition of that word in your mind.  The problem is, your meaning may be different than someone else’s.  This can cause miscommunication.  You’re both using the same word, but you each are interpreting it differently.

I like to argue discuss things with people.  Very often, I will ask someone to define a word they are using, so I know where they are coming from.  This happened recently when I was having an argument  discussion with someone about school dress codes.  This woman argued that girls should have to adhere to a dress code so they don’t “distract” boys.  I asked her to define distract, because to me, saying something is distracting in a classroom settings opens up a whole big can of worms.

There’s a funny bit that jimmy Fallon does on “The Tonight Show” . He puts common songs into Google translate so it comes out in another language. Then, he takes the translated song and plugs it back into translate, and then has a singer sing the new song. (I swear it’s funnier when you watch it) The point I’m trying to make is, after going through translate twice, the words are not even close to the original. It becomes a bad interpretation. The same words become mangled and you can’t understand them.

Words are extremely powerful.  We must all learn to use them very carefully when we are speaking. But we must also be careful to listen to the words presented to us.  We must read things with an open mind and try not to carry our backstory into everything.  In standardized tests, students are expected to answer questions based on the passage provided: they are not supposed to bring in background knowledge.  It’s not a bad idea to go into conversations as if you know nothing.  Look at every conversation, every reading passage as a chance to learn something new.  Look at every verbal interaction as chance to get rid of preconceived notions.  Listen to the words presented, really listen, and then make a decision.

I think there are many communication issues these days.  I don’t know how closely people listen to one another, that they’re often not listening, but just thinking about how they’re going to respond.  So here’s your homework:  have a conversation (real- not on a text or an email) and really listen to what someone is saying.  Ask for clarification if you’re unsure.  Try to completely comprehend their unique point of view.  Don’t interpret what they’re saying. Listen to them.




37 thoughts on “Here’s My Interpretation…

  1. Great post! It’s an interesting concept. Communication is more than talking and listening, it’s also interpretation. I think one of the greatest examples of diversity in written interpretation is in the Christian religion. There are so many different denominations that came out of someone’s interpretation of the same passage. It doesn’t seem possible. Interpretation is everything. Plus add in body language. Some could interpret someone who is loud and wildly gesturing across the room as excited, outgoing, impassioned, or possibly angry. Is having different interpretations of the spoken language, written language, and nonverbal communication important in any way?? Or do we tend to congregate with people that we think are just like us??

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh you gave me some really cool things to think about. I think we do tend to hang with people like us. There’s something about familiarity. It’s easy to hang with someone of like values, and we should enjoy our free time. If you hang with someone of opposing views, do you spend your whole time arguing? And yes…I think differing interpretations get us in trouble every single day

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Do we then gravitate towards blogs of like minded people too? 😀 Are different interpretations necessary for growth? What if I think the guy that is gesturing wildly is out to harm someone, but you think he is having fun? Maybe our different interpretations are useful in different ways. Even like minded people can have different interpretations of the same event. Yeah, sometimes it gets us in trouble but I think sometimes it promotes growth by challenging us not to stay stagnant in our thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think we definitely read blogs of people we find like us. It’s a survival thing….like things grouping together. I think different interpretations are fine as long as people are open minded. If someone is close minded it can be trouble. Think of how many times people say “I didn’t mean it like that”

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Absolutely. It happens more often now that we can communicate easier. It seems strange that it is easier to miscommunicate when we can communicate easier. I’m thinking along the lines of texting or even the messages we leave on blogs. Sometimes I ask…what does it mean? What are they trying to say? Not with you though. 😀😀 Crystal clear.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m typically horrible at this, but now working in healthcare again and having a very diverse patient population who not only often speak a language I completely don’t understand but also have wide ranging cultural differences as well, I get to practice active listening (or gesturing, or writing) all the time!
    I think that I revert back to my pre-judged, personal interpretation standard all to easily though when I’m with English speakers. How does one pretend not to understand a language that they’ve been speaking for 58 years! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Different places have different vernacular as well. In the south people say ma’am as a sign of respect and politeness. Don’t say that above the mason Dixon line though….I think we need to stop assuming everyone is on the same page

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Um, yeah, that’s similar to the “principles before personalities” concept in 12 step fellowships. Unfortunately, there are times when I can’t hear someone’s message of hope because my personality knows that person’s personality and closes my ears.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think you’re only as old or as young as you feel and/or act. Some days you can feel ancient, yet others you can feel like a toddler and not have a care in the world. Like you said, it’s all anout the perspective on the particular day.


  5. I think “distracting boys” in high school situations is generally code for “sexually titillate.” But exactly what modes of feminine dress (or un-) do that is always difficult to define. Nude would certainly qualify.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting post. I think I often need to really listen more before I speak. I think we also read a person’s body language and facial expressions when trying to interpret what they are saying, and don’t only listen to their words.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You write, “Try to completely comprehend their unique point of view.” Are you saying most people have a unique point of view?

    Now if I suggest, in dialogue with you, that most people will use the word unique incorrectly from the get-go… most unique, very unique, would you still suggest most people “have” a unique point of view. If most misuse language that denotes that which is singular, why would you grant them that personal status.

    People may be unique by nature, but through a collective cultural nurture, regress to commonplace misunderstandings and errors, which leads to parroting one’s political points and pounding the sand of a ground round of grievances.

    Splitting hairs? Perhaps. But curl up with this. How many of your fellow Americans can articulate the difference and define the notion of subjective and objective? (The ability to make change in the currency of what is unique.) Fear that number novel writer, as it probably speaks to who buys the books in this nation.

    The web is a mess because we give equal weight to each missive the masses key. And cocktail party chatter is doomed to the dumbing down of the top down feed.

    We all could, and should be better listeners, but if one wants our ear, the onus in understating of what’s being said should be, at least equally, on the speaker. And I find I really listen when someone has something unique to say.

    Nice post.

    And Regards,


    1. Sorry for late reply. This is what happens when I look at things on my phone when I don’t have time to reply…and yes. I think we’ve lost some of our uniqueness because most people long to be the same as everyone else. They crave the comfort of being part of the status quo and are afraid to be different for fear of not being liked. You are always unique and I love when you comment on my blog, because I know that you have truly thought out your answer. I wish more people had your way with words and self confidence and ability to think

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Well thought out post!
    I am guilty of this.
    I only listen because I need to gather points to counter whatever the other person is saying.
    Without even trying to understand the persons’ point of view.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Happens all the time. Sometimes in an interesting way too. For example, some people have understood my blogs in a very different way. It is so different from what I have tried to convey. I am often confused if I have to correct/explain to them or let them be.
    Since it is a win win situation, ( they say they have learnt a lesson which I have not written about) I usually let it be.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think you are right. These days, far to many conversations consist of two people simply waiting for the other person to stop talking so they can talk. Listening is far more important to any kind of understanding than talking ever will be!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wonder how much of this is due to overuse of email/text. When we write responses we don’t have to worry about interrupting or being interrupted


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