Foot In Mouth Disease... Thursday July 3, 2014
What a bizarre English idiom: to put your foot in your mouth. Aside from this being physically impossible for me since the age of 6 months (I'm just not that flexible), it really is a strange phrase, isn't it? That's beside the point. The point is, I am a Master at the art. It means to say something offensive or embarrassing... and I'm a natural at that! No effort required!
In the UK Market, Nestlé have broadened their range of KitKat chocolate bars. I'm sure it's the same the World over. One of the new ones is a 'KitKat Chunky'. Great, delicious chunks of chocolate. Want some?
I bought some. Knowing how much my friend loves chocolate, I said to her, "Would you like a KitKat Chunky?"
Her response was, "Would you like a slap?"
There was a pause.
On reflection, I realised she thought I was calling her "Chunky"!
Fortunately, we both laughed and saw the funny side of me putting my foot in my mouth. It did, however, remind me of a great principle: "The meaning of your communication is the response you get." This saying from Linguistics suggests that your intention really doesn't count for much in the game we call 'communication'. If someone misreads what you mean (and who hasn't been misunderstood?), then it's up to you to change your communication...
...until you get the response you want or intend.
This simple principle has saved me all manner of anxiety and effort over trying to justify what I intended to mean. When the communication doesn't 'work' – I simply look for another way to make my point and let go of the guilt. This can be easily softened by, "I didn't put that very well; what I meant to say was..."
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