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Bend it straight and other no comprende blunders: how to understand anyone


"Bend it straight," my mom yelled at me as I tried finagling her legs the way she wanted them in her bed. I put her leg down and said " You mean straight?" She looked at me and said "No, bend it straight." Being a teacher, I constantly have to interpret what my English Language Learners (ELL's) are trying to tell me. I often get through the fuzziness by asking questions. With this strategy in mind, I asked my mom "So you want me to bend your leg?" And as if I was getting on her last nerve, she said "NO! Bend it straight!"


In case you're wondering why I'm helping my mom in her bed, it's because she has A.L.S. and needs assistance for various activities, including getting in bed. But this whole incident showed me clearly how we miscommunicate with everyone all the time. To ourselves, we're being perfectly clear, but to others, we're clear as mud! How do we handle that issue?

1. Ask lots of questions. It should go without saying, but many people make LOTS of assumptions about what a person is saying and end up losing any number of things, including but not limited to, their minds, their money, their loves, and their possessions. If you swimming through muddy communication, ask, and ask again until you get it right.

2. See things from their perspective. I absolutely HATE when people attack others because of how they said a particular thing. Maybe it's because I teach ELL's or maybe it's because I've been around many different cultures, I don't know, and frankly it's kinda irrelevant. What I do know is that when someone is trying to communicate with you and maybe they say something wrong, please do not say "Oh well, next time say it this way," unless they ASK! I find that when you begin telling people how they "should" say something (even if you're being helpful), it creates a huge wall between you and them. Rather than "should" all over them, simply understand where they're coming from. Ironically, after an intense miscommunication, that person may come to the conclusion all their own to change how they communicate their statement next time.

3. Don't take it personal. Like boo-boo, miscommunications happen. No, you're not slow, you're not lacking basic common sense, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Try to be as amused as you can with the situation and learn to kinda laugh it off.


I looked at my mom and said "Ok...how do I bend your legs straight?" She then broke it down for me and said "Keep the leg that you're holding bent and then straighten my other leg. It makes it easier on your back to roll me over." Aha! Ya see, from her perspective "bending it straight" made perfect sense.

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