Have you ever noticed how easy it is to twist someone’s words because of your own experience? You know, where you think a person is saying one thing…you’re just dead positive they’re saying one thing…but another person, because of their different life experience hears it differently.
I’m going to a wedding on this coming Friday. Weddings are very formal in Brazil…long, flowing Oscary red carpet entrance type formal. So I needed a new dress. (Complication number two is that I’m singing at the wedding so I wanted something attractive but not gaudy.) So during my search these are the comments I heard from salespeople:
Literal translation from the portuguese: “You know, a woman like yourself who is large all over wears that style dress very well.”
What she meant: “Your hips and bust are well-proportioned.”
What I heard in my insecurity: “You are large all over.”
Literal translation from the portuguese: “You will be able to wear this dress again and again because it will not ‘mark’ the occasion.”
What she meant: “You’ll get a lot of use out of this dress because though it’s beautiful there is nothing gaudy about it.”
What I heard in my insecurity: “Honey, you really should choose a dress that doesn’t call attention to yourself.”
I’ve learned how to read comments from Brazilians that are really, truly meant as compliments but at literal value feel very backhanded. But sometimes my insecurity still shows…at least to me. I try not to let it show to those making the comments. After all, I know how much it hurts to be misunderstood. They’re just trying to get me to buy the dress, not offend me. So slowly but surely I’m learning not to read too much into people’s comments. After all, it’s my life experience/culture vs. their life experience/culture and how much can I truly expect for those two sides to be fully compatible and understood in the span of a 10 second comment.
What I don’t get is when people are snarky and deliberately degrading in anonymous comments in response to certain blogs. It hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve seen some attacks in the comments section of others’ blogs. I guess it goes both ways. You still have to give grace and consider the other person’s life experience when reading their comment. But it seems that if the commenter had considered the blogger’s life experience in the first place rather than just assuming they knew it, it might not have gotten so ugly.