Clarity about a subject between people is governed by the words we use. More important is that we understand the same thing by these words. Otherwise we can waste much energy arguing about different things.
This seems obvious with abstract ideas but it happens with the most mundane topics.This story really happened. My wife and I are getting our house ready to sell. We are taking some of the furniture to our son.The participants are KEZ and CAM.
KEZ: I wonder if Sam wants his bed. We could take it down with us when we take his other stuff.
CAM: I don’t know but I like that bed.
KEZ: We have three other beds in the house. We don’t need it.
CAM: But it’s the most comfortable mattress we have.
KEZ: Who cares about the mattress!
CAM: Wait, what do you mean by the bed?
KEZ: The furniture, you know, the cherry headboard and tailboard and the other pieces.
CAM: Huh, I always mean the mattress when I talk about a bed.
KEZ: Mattresses are not the bed.
I don’t need to continue this story. It’s interesting to me that we had this conversation many times before we finally realized that we meant two different things when we said bed. Now that we are clear about making a decision about the ‘bed’ is straight forward.
The punch line is don’t assume that it is obvious that you are talking about the same thing when you are discussing something. Imagine a discussion about health care. Realize that almost no one who fights about that issue defines what it means let alone their desired outcome.
Be wary of words and their meanings if you want to be clear.