SLanyon writingWhat’s in a Word? or Different Strokes for Different Folks

“ I couldn’t believe it,” my friend said with wide-eyed incredulity. “He just freaked out.”

Now you know as well as I do, that in order to get what was happening, “freaked out” needs some kind of clarification as to meaning. Especially in a counseling session. What behavior goes along with freaked out? What was said, or done? What reaction came next? Just as important, what came just before the freak out?

One of my favorite phrases is “words are powerful” One word can make or break a conversation, a train of thought, even a relationship. I think a deeper level of the power of a word is–what meaning does the speaker attach to that word?

When my friend tells of having an awful fight with her husband, it entailed that they raised their voices and perhaps interrupted each other. I recall with a cringe of embarrassment that an awful fight in some of my previous and younger relationships included loud yelling, screaming, crying, and yes, the launch of objects through the air in the direction of my supposed beloved. “Say what you mean” is important. The corollary is “explain what you mean.”

I recently took some phrases from my book, Seedlings, Stories of Relationships–words that had significance in relationships. I randomly had people write out what a phrase meant to them. Depending on who responded, the words took on a specific meaning. Reading them over, I am reminded to keep an open mind when I listen to others.

And when people speak, I acknowledge yet again, that we each have our own frame of reference (family background, cultural upbringing and expectations, temperament) that influences what words we choose and the meaning we assign to those words. It’s neither right nor wrong. It is what it is. Interesting.

As a writer, when I write about a character’s behavior, I need to show just what freak out, anger, fear, actually look, sound, feel, or even taste like.

Random responses:

Afraid: In writing science for kids, I’m afraid I won’t get the facts correct or interesting. ~ Elaine Powers

Seedlings addressing Afraid. My heart beats too fast, my palms sweat, I can’t think straight. What if I don’t get what I want? What if I lose what I have that I cherish? I don’t like being on shaky ground.

What is Beauty?: Radiance reflecting, projecting from a bright and brilliant place within a person place or object. ~ Rhonda Banuelos

Seedlings Beauty. The physical attributes that are pleasing to the eye of the beholder and enhance the self-esteem of someone.

Give Yourself a Compliment: I am fun to be with. I like to laugh and I like to make people laugh. ~ Sally Lanyon

Seedlings. The Compliment: I am content with who I am. I am comfortable in most situations whether I am the center of attention, on the fringes, or with total strangers.

The Great Love of My Life: In retrospect it looms large as a miss. What would be different if I had gone with one… or the other? ~ Anonymous

Seedlings. The Great Love: A person I would trust enough to share both my best and weakest moments. That person who would be enough for me; the one I would not feel needed changing. The one who reciprocated those feelings.

Be a Compassion Ambassador: I think that’s a powerful reminder of the purpose of life. ~ Trish Downer

Seedlings: Young children who without guile or ulterior motive reached out to another to be kind, helpful, affectionate. The ability I strive for to accept that someone may be suffering. Can I drop the story line of how their interaction affects me to the degree that I can be of help to that person?

Thank you to the random writers.

Readers, what do these words mean to you?  Fear. Beauty. The great love of my life. Compassion ambassador. Compliment to myself.