Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Jibber Jabber


"OMG - You are going to jibber jabber about jibber jabber" - Penny to Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory.

It was not the first time I heard the term used on one of my favourite TV shows. I have also heard it used on other shows I watch. My friend has more than once referred to me as the Cliff Claven of the group. Does my knowledge of trivial facts count as jibber-jabber? Would my blogs and/or most blogs be classified as jibber jabber?

If we go by the definitions posted on Urban Dictionary (the first definition being attributed to Mr. T!) jibber-jabber derives from gibberish and means "talking or speaking non-sense". In this case the use of the term really depends on the user of the term.

When Penny asks Sheldon about what he is currently doing at work, he goes into a long explanation about his latest physics project. Now to Penny, Sheldon's speech would be jibber-jabber. To a real physicist it may also be jibber-jabber. To other characters on the show, namely the other scientists, it probably wouldn't be.

My son has an added layer of interpretation as he has an extra voice that weighs in - that of his OCD. To the rest of us, his illogical, nonsensical links to words and deeds that if not said or done may result in something bad happening is frustrating for everyone, and teaches us a lesson in patience. See: Words Away.

We know words are powerful. We know they can be misinterpreted as jibber-jabber or potentially be seen as something entirely different by both the user and the receiver of the words. This is the essential communication debate.  Jibber jabber can be a mask while we are trying to figure out what we really want to say. It may be a nervous habit due to circumstances where we cannot see any physical reaction to our statements. How many times have you left that seemingly never-ending voice-message? It is the one time I really appreciate the texting option. I can write, erase, write, erase as many times as I want until no jibber-jabber is left. For those who know me well, it doesn't always work.  I am a natural jibber-jabberer.

However, brevity is not always the best option either. Alone the following phrases, despite the use of a strong middle word are very ambiguous:

"I love you"
"I need you"
"I hate you".

There is a quote that my friends and I often laugh about and refer to on many occasions. It originally came from a personal message section in one of the local papers, and it goes something like this "I love you and I hate you, and I only hope you feel the same".  Yes - huh? And funny.

I am positive, that even from the little I have read, psychologists, therapists, behavioural specialists, marketers and expert communicators around the world would agree that identifying the deed or act related to why you love, need, or even hate someone is a more powerful way of communicating:

"I love that you sing while you shower. It makes me happy"
"I need you to hug me because I had a bad day"
"I hate that you refuse to discuss the budget when it's clear we are spending beyond our means, and I'm worried"

Although there are times when saying "I love you" alone can be heartfelt, it is more likely due to the physical expression of the feeling (look in your eyes or strong embrace) while you say it. Weighting the "I love you" with additional specifics is harder to do. Think about all the people you truly love and see if you can tell them at least five reasons why. It's a good exercise and might make a great love letter! See my blog on the Modern Love Letter. Also see the children's book: I Love You Because You're You.

"Need" is often seen as a weakness. Over the week-end we watched 42 - the story about Jackie Robinson and his genius makers. There is a speech he makes to the reporter/driver who has been assigned to escort and protect him from those who oppose the first African American baseball player to play with a "white" team. Jackie generally talks about how he doesn't want to need anybody because he thinks it makes him look weak; that he wants to be strong enough to fight on his own. He learns, as many of us do, that admitting that we have needs, whether we need help, advice, a hug - makes us robust.

I don't like it (better option that hate?) when my children use the word "hate". But I also want to help them express negative feelings. The Merriam-Webster definition of "hate" is: a. "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury or b. extreme dislike or antipathy. Again, the use of "hate" becomes more meaningful when we can articulate the root cause of it - by identifying the fear, the anger, the injury.

So while jibber-jabber may seem like it's more fun, or perhaps the intention is to purposefully confuse the receiver, the ambiguity of simple statements is also not the answer to bettering our communication skills. I am going to make a concerted effort to supress my jibber-jabber as well as giving those closest to me the reasons behind why I feel the way I do. My friends - let me know how I am doing!

"The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”  - Shaw.
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