Shared understanding

If I say something about “having a job” a specific set of thoughts will probably come to your mind. It could be your daily commute, dealing with your colleagues, your office, or it could be a myriad of other things. I am turning 34 this year. I never commuted to my job. I never had a salary and never had paid vacation. I am self employed. Always have been and probably always will be. If you and I were to discuss anything job related, without first clarifying what “having a job” means to both of us, our discussion would probably end up being very confused and possibly lead to misunderstandings. That’s because words have meaning but that meaning is often shaped by our life circumstances and experiences.

Now what if instead of talking about jobs we were talking about things that are a lot more blurry such as emotions or feelings or complex ideologies? And what if we did that through 280 character tweets? We would make a mess. We are making a mess. Discussing anything is hard. It’s hard in person, even with people you know well. It’s harder online, with strangers. The solution to this? Kindness and curiosity. Be kind with the person on the other side and try ask as many questions as you can in order to get a sense of what you really share with this other human being. Only at that point you can really try to tackle more complex discussions. Because without a shared understanding of where we are in life and what words mean to us, there's no room for constructive interactions.