I had an interesting conversation with a man I met while waiting for a flight. He was a professor of linguistics in South Korea and was planning for his upcoming speech at a convention in Berlin. Having never met someone in his profession, I had little to say but found the topics we discussed quite interesting.
After a debate about tonal language and if all languages are in fact tonal to some extent, we touched upon a controversial subject. Jim, my new-found layover buddy, said something quite profound: ‘Most people think that language consists of the vocabulary we use, but language has very little to do with words; it has everything to do with intention.’
I began to think about this statement, and if I could apply it to my life. I had to agree. Many people say things they don’t necessarily mean for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they say it because they lack the vocabulary. Other times it is due to a disability, anger, or culture. We actively make attempts to decode what is being said and why with the ones we love, despite their style of communication. Many arguments occur out of miscommunication when the parties involved are actually agreeing. Disputes that occur between people could be resolved more easily if intentions are understood. Whether or not both people hold completely opposing sets of beliefs and values, makes no difference.
Lately, I have had a habit of ignoring people while flying because I value my own time. I excuse myself from conversations in order to catch up on a nap, read my book, or just to avoid the pressure of a social situation with someone I will never meet again. Things will be different from now on though. Before collecting my bags on the other side, Jim handed me his business card and we promised to meet again.