Wednesday, December 10, 2014


According to Urban Dictionary, there is an actual word misunderheard. It means "when an individual fails to correctly hear what another individual has said". Do you suppose someone who is hard of hearing coined that word? The experience of having a misunderhearing happens often to me.

My latest lulu was when I misunderheard Avon (cosmetics company) for A-bomb (nuclear weapon). Conceptually, they are not the least bit alike! But if you remove the consonants from their pronunciation, they both have ay-ah vowel sounds. Darn consonants, they trip me up all the time.

Thinking about this misunderhearing later, I recalled a funny description I heard once of a woman who wore too much makeup: She had enough paint on to paint a battleship. And enough powder to blow her up!

Have you had any funny hearing mistakes or misunderhearings lately?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Decisions or Choices?

When I signed up for my two communication classes taught by the same professor, I did not know I was going to be taught about human consciousness as well. It turned out that my professor has a Ph.D. in the study of communication and consciousness and incorporates this subject matter into all the classes she teaches. One of the basic principles she taught in both of my classes was that human consciousness has progressed through several stages. According to her, mankind has already been through archaic, magical, and mythical consciousness stages and is currently operating within a mental-rational mindset. She says that the next stage, arational-integral, is on the horizon and that about one-third of the world's population have this consciousness. Her teaching raises awareness of what arational-integral thinking is like.

What does this have to do with communication you may wonder? Plenty. Your mental model of how the world operates affects how you communicate with other people. Within the mental-rational mindset, there is an emphasis on controlling others because there is a perceived lack of resources. In other words, the underlying belief is that there is not enough to go around and I need to grab my fair share even when it's at the expense of someone else. That's a pretty good summary of the world we live in today, right?

My teacher taught us about two contrasting mental models: control and connect. When a person lives out of the control model, there is a win-lose orientation, a desire to avoid mistakes at all costs, and a propensity to assign blame when success is not achieved. When someone lives within the connect model way of thinking, her life is oriented towards achieving personal satisfaction and when a situation does not turn out the way she had planned, she looks upon it as an unintended result and does not assign blame to herself or others.

One of the lessons that stood out most to me in her classes was the idea of using the verb choose rather than decide. She explained that to make a decision allow you only two options - the right decision or the wrong one. If you substitute the word choice, you have more options. She encouraged us to look at our lives as a selection of options. When she said that, I imagined an ice cream shop with a range of flavors available. Some I might enjoy more than others, but hey, it's all ice cream!

Photo: creamery ice cream flavors. Courtesy
of PennState flickr & their Creative Commons license

She explained to us that it is easier to make a new choice than a decision. She said to imagine my future as a play. I can choose something in Act One and look ahead in the play. If I do not like how it turned out, I can make a different choice and rewrite the play's storyline.

You may be thinking this is just semantics, so let me explain how I am applying this concept in my own life. One of the biggest questions I am facing now is what lies ahead for me. I wonder if obtaining a master's degree in communication will open new doors for me and what career opportunities might be possible. Looking at various scenarios as potential choices rather than decisions to make is easier on me. It takes the pressure off and there is no need to worry about making a fatally wrong decision or berate myself for failing to secure a particular job interview. 

What do you think? Do you make decisions or choices?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Learning to Hear Myself

For the second essay in my listening class, I was asked to discuss my ability to listen to myself. In that paper, the idea that I was deaf to myself emerged. I realized I had paid little attention to my intrapersonal communication. When I began to listen, I heard myself saying, "I need to do ___." Fill in the blank with any common chore. I discovered I mentally assign myself quite a few tasks to do around the house. Other messages were about the way I was feeling. The most frequent were "I am tired", "I am hungry", "I am scared", and "I am nervous". I was not hearing myself saying anything positive or encouraging.

For my next essay, I was required to listen to myself while alone in a nature setting five times. The first two times I was unsuccessful at hearing anything meaningful, but on the third outing I received a message. I told myself that all the expectations I had put on myself for the weekend were unnecessary.  My inner voice gently stated that I got done what I got done and that it was enough. I had been feeling internal pressure about not accomplishing everything that needed to be done in preparation for the week ahead within the two days allotted. To be honest, I had slept and relaxed some and my consciousness was telling me that taking a break to rest was allowed and beneficial to me. Ironically, for a 2014 New Years resolution, I had said that this year I would go easier on myself. This was a timely reminder of that intention.

On my final listening in nature session for class, I received a deeper message while sitting next to a lake. My attention was on the water and I noticed the waves moving by. My thoughts were on my family. My inner eye brought up an image of a water park lazy river with me in one rubber raft and my family members on their own rubber rafts. We were clutching each other by the arms to stay together as we floated. Eventually, we broke apart and I saw my family drifting away ahead of me in the lazy river current. My inner voice said, "Let go, let go, let go." Then, I told myself that something essential within me remains.

These reflections addressed my recent feelings of loss due to family members moving away from me. I looked out at the lake again and noticed how all of it its expanse is contained within a single body of water. I thought that even if I were in the lake on this side and a family member was across the lake we were still connected by being in the water. It was comforting to me to ponder that a sort of proximity exists even across distances.

I plan to continue to listen outdoors in nature. There is something calming about nature that allows my inner voice to speak up if I am willing to pay attention.