Helping others should never center around how others perceive you.
There are many factors that can shape, broaden, or significantly influence our own personal development. Looking at a few of my past articles, however, may give the distinct impression that individual growth is often predicated on uncovering errors, mistakes, or other issues that may appear to impair our own self-confidence. That is never my intention. Perhaps I’ve been focusing on these kinds of events because they have provided the greatest impact in my own life.
Self-confidence is an important factor for increasing personal growth. However, understanding the difference between self-assuredness and arrogance sometimes lies in a murky place. The inclination to be correct and factual is important and not exclusively in the area of self-growth. But is it possible to be both right and wrong in the very same moment?
I’ve had a longstanding fascination with words and their usage. It began with writing simple poems in elementary school. While in junior high, diagraming sentences was a favorite class exercise. In high school, I took 3 years of Latin – simply because I enjoyed the challenge. One of my fondest memories with my father was when we spent an hour looking up words in the dictionary and discovering their origins. Although I never grew to the level of a copyeditor, I periodically would refer to myself as a “grammar snob”.
There was an important lesson which someone very dear to me pointed out. At times I would also deem myself the “grammar police” and actually corrected people who used improper grammar. It was not a constant activity and I truthfully can’t tell you what prompted that reaction; however, when it was suggested to me this was an arrogant response, I had no choice but to sincerely deliberate her words.
My first reaction was to justify why it was correct. “Don’t people want to know when they are speaking incorrectly?” I reasoned poorly. It did not take long to realize that the underlying reason for this action was more accurately needing to be seen as intelligent. Being “right” was not for their benefit and how would something so smug be perceived as smart? Perhaps were I able to read their minds, I would have seen the word smart being replaced with the word “smarmy.”
I could argue ad nauseum that a double negative is incorrect. When a person says, “I don’t know nothing” what they are really saying is “There’s nothing I don’t know.” However, being right in this instance doesn’t – and didn’t – matter. The intention was not centered around helping others and there was no doubt in my mind that I knew precisely what they meant.
Communication is important. Understanding what others are conveying is the key.
There are times when proper grammar and usage are vital but those are mainly in legal and technical realms. Everyday conversations don’t require such scrutiny. This one weakness, which was a once-perceived strength, has made a huge difference in my communication with others. It transformed the listening experience and genuinely provided a more engaging as well as caring exchange. After all, it’s next to impossible to help others when the concern is centered on yourself.