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Notes Psychology

Rule 10: Be Precise in Your Speech (12 Rules for Life)

The world reveals itself as tools, not as objects. We don’t waste time processing the boring details of everything we see. We only care about the usefulness of things.

Many of us don’t think about the complexity of our cars or laptops until they break down. Only then are we forced to understand what’s going on at a deeper level.

And this applies to other things. We often ignore problems we should be trying to solve. Then they pile up, and force us to contend with their reality with precision and careful attention. Things that were low resolution before become high resolution.

What happens in relationships that collapse is similar. Consider the scenario of the woman who finds out that her husband cheated on her. The first thing that happens is that her idea of who her husband is collapses. Consequently, someone else (a stranger) appears instead of her husband. That becomes frightening, but it gets worse. Her idea of who she is also collapses. Two people she thought she knew well, her husband and her self, are now strangers. They take on different identities. Now that the past has been altered, so will the present and future.

The woman will eventually come to the realization that this could have been expected. She remembers the sexual and emotional distance she experienced during the end of her relationship with her husband. She feels guilty about ignoring the warning signs. A more open and precise conversation could have averted disaster.

No Dragons

There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent is a story for children. It’s about Billy Bixbee, a small boy who sees a dragon on his bed one morning. At first, it’s as big as a cat and quite friendly.

Billy tells his mother about what he saw but she tells him that “there’s no such thing as a dragon.” One day, Billy’s father sees that the dragon has grown so large that it has outgrown the house and is now physically transporting the house down the street.

The father chases after it and climbs up the dragon’s head and neck and reunites with his family. The mother still denies the existence of the dragon. Billy, fed up by now, insists, “There is a dragon, mom.”

Finally, it shrinks, and goes back to being as big as a cat.

In the end, everyone agrees that “dragons of that size (1) exist and (2) are much preferable to their gigantic counterparts. Mom, eyes reluctantly opened by this point, asks somewhat plaintively why it had to get so big. Billy quietly suggests: “maybe it wanted to be noticed.””

That’s a common moral in stories. Chaos emerges and slowly creates unhappiness and resentment.

“Everything untidy is swept under the rug, where the dragon feasts on the crumbs.” But no one does anything about it. The “negotiated order of the household reveals itself as inadequate, or disintegrates, in the face of the unexpected and threatening.”

The only way to escape tyranny is through negotiation. It requires both parties to acknowledge the dragon, and it requires you to be willing to fight (with peace as your end goal).

“The escape from tyranny is often followed not by Paradise, but by a sojourn in the desert, aimless, confused and deprived.”

But if you choose to remain silent and convince yourself that your silence is a virtue – that you refuse to speak up because you’re a patient and peaceful person, the monster under the rug grows larger, until eventually, it takes complete control of your life.

You should come to terms with the ugly side of your nature if you are to make progress with others.

By choosing to turn a blind eye, you are exacerbating your situation. You are making it more improbable that you will be able to withstand tragedy in the future. Confronting the dragon is painful. But experiencing pain in the short term is better than experiencing catastrophe in the long term.

Maybe our errant husband ignored the dinner conversation of his wife because he hated his job and was tired and resentful. Maybe he hated his job because his career was forced on him by his father and he was too weak or “loyal” to object. Maybe she put up with his lack of attention because she believed that forthright objection itself was rude and immoral. Maybe she hated her own father’s anger and decided, when very young, that all aggression and assertiveness were morally wrong.”

Be careful what story you tell yourself to others about your past, present, and future. Look for the correct words. Organize these words into careful sentences and paragraphs. You can redeem your past with the power of precise language. You can win back the present if you acknowledge the future clearly. There are many ugly scenarios that can potentially play out in your life. Reducing them to a single destiny that justifies the inevitable suffering of life should be your goal. That’s how “the Eye and the Word make habitable order.”

“Confront the chaos of Being. Take aim against a sea of troubles. Specify your destination and chart your course. Admit to what you want. Tell those around you who you are. Narrow, and gaze attentively, and move forward, forthrightly.”

Be precise in your speech.

Read 12 Rules For Life 

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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