Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

Why the phrase “I know” destroys connections rather than creating connection

Velda Brotherton and I were chatting under the electronic shade tree, sipping lemonade, trading our pet language peeves one day when we decided we'd post and link on some of them at the same time. Velda's started her list on her blog "On Being a Writer."

My top language peeve at the moment is the phrase "I know,"---said not with an understanding nod and a sympathetic voice, but with an attitudinal toss of the head and an implied "why are you bothering to tell me this?"

When I hear this, I feel discarded...as if what I know is of no use. And, I know it's a little pathetic for a grown woman, but it sorta sends me back to the playground and I'm torn between tears and punching the person's lights out. You get the drift...hurts my feelings. It's like saying, "Shut up." And our connection quivers, just like that.

I've been thinking of alternatives. What if the person said, "Oh, yes, I've heard of that before. Tell me more. What's your take on it?"

What if there was an attitude of curiosity instead of close-mindedness? What if there were room to know more? What if knowing were more than just about facts, information, and something on the surface? What if knowing were about sharing, not about superiority or who can show up whom? Not about who gets the better grade on the test?

What if knowing were about knowing the person more fully, more deeply? What is knowing was one thread in closer connection...closer union?

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3 Responses »

  1. I like this reflection on how language is a tool for connection--or not. It gives rise to my own reflection. Also, what I hear you saying is that it's not just the words--it's the body language and the inflection of the voice that carries meaning.

  2. Oh, I know!

    (snigger) 🙂

  3. Hi Janet, this shade tree sure feels good today, and the lemonade is just right. I've posted some reasons that today's language bothers me. Perhaps I annoy easily. I like your non connecting idea. Often, I totally lose the thread of a conversation when it is peppered with okays and your knows, each with an implied question mark. I'm exhausted by the time the story is told.
    Will go now.

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