Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Paper typical ochchindhi

I asked my friend, how did your exam go? 

"Paper typical ochchindhi."

What he means: its not along expected lines. What he really means is atypical. A person looking at his words, would understand it differently.

Look past the words. This is critically important in a conversation.

This understanding - of what he means by typical - is a shared context: cultural context, a limited geographic context, between a group, or just between the two of them. Corresponding examples: all people in AP use typical that way; in nalgonda district; a small group of friends who grew up together; or just my friend who I really know and what he means by each word.

Without a shared context -- the information is inaccessible. The appearance of conversation is there, but they would be talking past each other.

As an aside: humor is extremely sensitive to the shared context. People cannot appreciate humor the same way unless they  share a context. Many people learn a language, but can't access humor. Learning English doesn't help a lot in understanding Stephen Colbert. 

Note: I will use words to mean words, phrases and sentences.

Words do not mean the same to everyone. Words are not precise, they ain't numbers (assume that numbers mean the same to everyone!). 

Words have memory association. A meaning is assigned to a word based on how it is learnt and memorized. 

Most people strongly associate negative connotations to words. Hence they get offended quickly. "Taught a lesson" conveys nothing negative to me, but I know a person who would be severely offended by it.

Profanities work the same way. People associate negative connotations. Profanities have no impact on me, they don't convey any specific information. People resort to profanities when they are are emotional. It is important to look beyond the words to see what caused the profanities.

To summarize: It takes a lot of time and energy to understand a person. Time, first, because amass a lot of *conversation*, and a lot of background info. Listening is important. Energy, because this is a continuous process. Understanding needs to be constantly revised until the other persons framework is completely accessible and information is received the right way - that is, you can completely look past the words and into the person

We can see talking past each other in a lot of intellectual debates. The opponents do not spend enough time and energy to understand the other side. Without understanding, there is no room for co-operation. And the debate continuse!! 

Pro reservation vs Anti reservation. Socialist vs free-market. Conservatives vs liberals (they have different channels of morality) - http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html

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