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a gentle reminder

Posted Jan 11 2010 6:43am

Here's a little reminder for all of us (everyone, not just people who suffer from eating disorders): Use words literally.

I could go on for hours with examples of how we use words loaded with hidden or ulterior meaning. Since this is a brief and gentle reminder for us, I'll stick to one example.

At a family gathering over the holidays a relative of a client of mine was going on and on about an employee of hers that had done something so "stupid" she just couldn't believe it. My client and I talked about what the employee had done and, while not the best move ever invented, it didn't seem like much of a problem to remedy.

The relative wasn't using the word stupid properly. She was using it to make a "moral" and "character" judgement about this employee- she was implying the person was incompetent, a worthless employee, and flawed as a person. This very much offended my client, as it should have.

Ok, here's part two: About 20 years ago, a good friend of mine (who is really quite wise in most ways) discovered ants had somehow managed to make a home for themselves all over (and I mean ALL over) his car engine (don't ask... I have no idea how this happened- it was 20 years ago and maybe cars weren't ant-proof back then...). He tried getting the car washed, spraying with water himself, all kinds of things. None of them worked. Then, he had what he considered a really obvious idea: spraying the entire engine with ant spray. Yep, he really did it. 

The result? All the ants died. And, he had to drive his car around with all the windows open for about a year! Each time he turned on the engine the fumes from the ant spray came through the ventilation system straight into the car! Rain or shine, there he was, driving around with all his windows open...

Now, really, this is a smart, talented, experienced in life, guy. But I have to say, his spray-the-engine-with-ant-spray idea may just qualify as stupid.

You can look stupid up in a dictionary. It has a real definition, and actually can be a pretty useful word. But it's only fair to use it according to it's true meaning. Not fair to latch all kinds of other meanings onto it.

You'd be amazed at how often people do this. And it can feel pretty darn crazy to the person listening- they hear 2 levels of communication: the actual words being said, and the hidden or loaded  meaning. You can see how this doesn't work out well in any way...

I'm reminding myself as I write this to continue to be careful about doing this too. See, I really did mean it- we all have to be cognizant of this problem :)
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