I’ve said a lot of things that didn’t convey what I mean, but my actions are always true to my intentions.
I’ve had many conversations throughout my life in which the meaning I intended to communicate was not successfully transmitted in speech. Whether it be my choice of words, the recipient’s interpretation, or a combination thereof, things have been taken the wrong way. My actions, however, have always been accurate. I believe that’s unique because many people don’t say what they mean and then regret what they say (or don’t say), much less what they do.
While I meant every word I’ve said and do not regret any of them, I do regret the way some of those words have been received by others. We cannot control another person’s past experience, ability to listen and synthesize information, emotional state, or learned meaning of words and intonation. All of these things affect how external communication is received and processed. This is, of course, out of the control of the speaker. But there are ways in which one can make their message as clear as possible. Doing so is especially important in serious, emotionally charged, and/or tense conversations when the factors beyond the literal meaning of words hold more sway than usual. While there’s not an exact solution to be able to quiet another person’s mind (as most of our minds are so noisy), there is an approach to overcome most people’s noisy minds which is in the way things are said. That’s why my dad’s consistent saying I remember since childhood is so relevant to me even to this day: “it’s not what you say, but how you say what you say that matters.” To give context, he would always repeat this to me when I would make a very insightful observation without being aware of how I’m communicating that observation out loud. No matter how I tried to justify why I said what I said in the moment, he would just continue to repeat, “it’s not what you’re saying, it’s how you’re saying what you’re saying.” He was never harsh with me. He never told me I was wrong. Rather, he would let me know he always understood where I was coming from. He gave me the credibility and acknowledgment along with the confidence to know he saw where I was coming from but that I was communicating incorrectly which was detracting from my communication to others. This forced me into constant introspection at every turn, especially the turns when I felt justified in communicating the way I was communicating. Because of this simple, clear saying of my dad, I have made small optimizations to the way I communicate since childhood as I believe I can always and will always need to get better at communicating.
To me, actions have always been the most valuable form of communication. Actions are one area in which I’m certain I’ve communicated my intent and meaning with precise accuracy. I believe that if one has to choose an area for shortcomings — speech or action — that speech is a natural choice. While words do have an impact and must be approached thoughtfully, one’s actions have a much greater effect on the lives of all parties involved in communication.
There are things I could have said differently. I regret not being skilled enough at the time to say them the way that I wanted them to be understood. This is something I’ve worked to improve over the years while never sacrificing accuracy in the ultimate form of communication: action.