People who know me intimately understand that for me, every word has a subtle, nuanced definition, with pale shades of meaning differentiating one word from a similar one. That concept is difficult to explain to someone for whom words have less significant meaning, but here’s the example I always use to help others understand.
Imagine you are a customer service person and have accidentally forgotten to enter a customer’s order. Which of the following messages would you prefer to deliver to the client?
“I’m sorry, I made a mistake and forgot to enter your order.”
Or would you rather say,
“I regret to inform you an error was made and your order was not entered immediately.”
Both lines deliver the same message — your item hasn’t been ordered. But the second example does not assign blame, or attach personal guilt. Words have “done the job” without “throwing you under the bus.” I hope the difference between those two sentences illustrate how much individuality each word holds for me. For me, words are alive. They are each unique. Words are amazing.
So, all that background about word significance was necessary as a preface for today’s blog entry, inspired by an innocuous post on the social-networking site I visit many times a day. This jumped “off the scroll” at me today:
The instructions that accompanied this image directed readers to post a single word describing the post-er, then commanded them to re-post the image above with the same directions, seeking a similar list of single-word descriptors for themselves.
Think about that request: Describe. Me. In. One. Word.
I guess maybe this post hit home with me because lately I have been considering the many single words descriptors applied to me. I talked this over with my therapist, JG, and shared the following scenario. I meet someone new at a gathering and, after two or three minutes of casual conversation and small talk, that person feels obliged to “define” me: “You are so nice,” or “You’re so funny,” or “You are just so interesting.” I believe pigeonholing and defining others help most people in social interactions. The act puts them more at ease because, at least in their heads, they “understand” the person they just met. I am funny, so they try and steer conversation in a way to take advantage of that tag, that label. It makes conversation easier.
Nice. Funny. Interesting. None of those are tags that offend me, but I like to think I am so much more than that. Sure, I’m funny but I’m also quite serious and thoughtful. Nice? I mean, who isn’t nice at a party, right? And while I generally do consider myself to be a pretty nice person, I also have darker days (like everyone else) and on those days I doubt if my demeanor would be classified as anything close to “nice.” Then there is interesting. “You are just so interesting.” The funny thing about that comment is that, with the exception of my closest friends, I typically wear/have on a sort of medium personality at all times – I’d call it “Tim Lite.” Truth is, I am a very passionate, opinionated person on a broad range of topics so yes, I suppose I am interesting but few people actually take the time to get to know the real me. They feel more comfortable with the nice, funny me – and most of the time until recently, I have felt more comfortable with that version of myself as well. Which has lead to a lot of personal introspection and review lately…
When I challenged myself to define me with one word, I guess the word I like best is “complex.” The word complex is, in and of itself, complex and I like that. Complex defines a state of being, or affairs, or a situation, rather than a singular attribute or trait.
As I continue to examine me, to get to know myself, I will make a list of all the single words that define all the facets of me. Some of those words are already well known to me but some sparkle with discovery. Some words will be “nice” and – if I am being honest – some words may be not so nice, and those words will help identify habits and traits upon which I can improve. I’m not sure that my list will ever be complete; I do, however, have a suspicion that my list will be long and complex…