What Are You Trying to Say?

Sometimes I’m really grateful for blog comments, because they can get me thinking about things that are important to me. Recently, a comment was shared by Edith on my May 6 Toxic Negativity post. In addition to some lovely personal sharing, she made this point:

 I’d be interested to hear more about what you get out of communication as well, because I believe most people do it to exchange and amplify emotions they wish to experience whereas while I do enjoy exchanging wanted emotions I mostly want to exchange ideas so sometimes I bring up something negative because I want to solve it, without realizing that not all problems are solvable and that not chewing on it might be better. 

Blog comment, July 30, 2020

This is the kind of topic a person with my background in linguistics and pragmatics lives for. What Edith’s wanting to know about is not what the things I say mean (semantics) but what I’m trying to do with my words (pragmatics). Guess what leads to confusion and mis-communication? When you say something with one intent, and your communication partner interprets it another way.

Here’s an example:

Me: There’s Alfred hair all over the floor.
Lee: Hey, I’ve been doing the books all day – I don’t have time to sweep.

So, maybe I was just noticing that the hair is there, not judging Lee’s housekeeping skills. Or, maybe I was thinking I should be doing some sweeping. Or maybe I was actually judging Lee. How to tell?

Alfred DOES shed a lot.

Well, if we were talking in person, Lee could tell by my tone of voice (stern, teasing, surprised), or he could see by my actions that I was heading to get a broom or crossing my arms in irritation. Those are among the many ways we can infer motivation to other people’s speech.

One method of communication we aren’t using so much these days. Photo by @Nodar via Twenty20

But these days, a lot of our communication comes via text, Twitter, Facebook comments, messenger app, or email. We lack a lot of those tone of voice and mannerisms tools for conveying additional meaning. We do have ALL CAPS and emojis, of course. But you can easily see how it can be a lot harder to figure out what someone is actually trying to convey outside the literal words they’ve typed.

I’m pretty sure Edith has been reading a lot of emotion-charged content lately, especially on Facebook/Twitter, etc. I see a LOT of content that repeats time-worn phrases or buzzwords that do seem to me that they aren’t intent on conveying information, but rather to vent, convey frustration, state which “team” they are on or show their disapproval of others. I even see them getting irritated when folks want to talk about what they actually SAY.

Yep, sometimes technology obscures intended meaning. Image by @Mehaniq via Twenty20

In fact, I often see that when people are genuinely wanting information, they specifically say so. They’ll say, “I really want to know,” or something like it. So, it seems to me that a lot of us are interpreting things we read and even hear as just folks blowing off steam.

That’s great unless you’re someone like Edith, who doesn’t work that way, and really just wants to respond to what the words are saying, not underlying implications.

What to Do?

Well, one thing that helps is to ignore people who just seem to be blowing off steam. They don’t really want to exchange ideas, information, or heaven forbid, facts/evidence.

If you think someone may actually want to be conveying information or getting your input, though, you can always try my favorite from back when I helped mothers breastfeed, “active listening.” It includes the technique where you paraphrase what you think the other person is trying to say, and get confirmation or clarification. You say something like, “What I hear you saying is X; is that right?” and the person either confirms or explains. (Summarizing, below)

Thanks to Education Corner for the graphic.

While this can get annoying REAL fast if you repeat it throughout a conversation, used sparingly it can head off those occasions where you get ten minutes into a heated discussion only to realize you were talking about different things.

You can always try the reflecting part of active listening, “When you say X, it makes me feel Y,” which is supposed to be better than blaming, name-calling, or labeling (for example, “That was stupid”). The idea is that you’re pointing out that the words are the problem, not the person saying them. This is another technique that can easily backfire (So, don’t say, “When you say those Confederate statues are your beloved heritage, it makes me feel like you don’t think black lives matter,” because that conversation will turn ugly very quickly.)

This takes me back to the first option, which is ignoring stuff you know isn’t really about exchanging information. Occasionally, with people I know or am related to, I will ask if they really want to start a conversation about Topic X, because I actually do know something about it and can share information. There have been times where one of us learns something that affects our feelings one way or another or gets us to re-evaluate and think about the topic based on new evidence, which is the goal of a good discussion, isn’t it? (That is opposed to a good venting session, the goal of which is to get hearty agreement that our way is RIGHT, and those other people are doofuses. Sometimes we need these, but we need to know when we are in a venting or information exchange interaction!)

Fill in the blank, venting, chatting, lecturing…

I guess my conclusion is there’s lots of reasons to communicate, and lots of WAYS to communicate in addition to the face value of the words in sentences. To succeed, whether you want to share information, educate, insult, or vent, you need to first agree on the mutual goal. Otherwise, we’re just talking (or typing) at each other rather than with each other.

I don’t know if any of this has helped at all. There is more I could say, but no time to say it, since lunch is over, and I need to go to some more work meetings and nod my head and smile a lot or help someone solve a problem (I like the latter kind best).

The Next Day

Someone said they couldn’t follow this well, because it’s written, not spoken. Then I couldn’t tell if they were joking or serious, because there were no emoticons. I rest my case.

Fanfare Please! A Milestone!

Our little blog about the ranch and personal growth has been growing steadily, and one measure of that is the number of followers we have on WordPress. This afternoon, I was greeted with this:

Ta da!

We have 300 followers, and from what I can tell, a good portion of them are actually other human bloggers, and not some SEO-seeking drones, or whatever you’d call that.

Thanks, as always, to everyone who reads, comments, shares, and provides your perspectives. I may not be infallible, but I’m lovable, so you tell me.

I hope I sometimes encourage you to think or move outside your comfort zone. My favorite blogs do that for me!

Thanks for reading about ME!

Make Big Bucks from Your Blog?

I just read that WordPress has come up with a method whereby you can have “premium content” in your blog. The idea is that people sign up to be a supporter of a particular blog, and for X dollars a month (or year) you get access to blog content that those poor regular readers can’t see.

Examples that I read about included recipes, photos, art, etc. Maybe a poet would write a poem just for the paid customers.

Perhaps adorable dog photos would entice followers to pay up. Hmm.

This reminds me a lot of the Patreon site, where you pledge some number of dollars in support of an artist, musician, crafter, or writer, just so that they can have some time to work on their artistic avocation and not have to hustle so much for cash to pay the rent. It worked for Michaelangelo, sort of.

Bouquet of the day? Well, I bought this for Kathleen, so mine would not look so nice.

The people I support on Patreon send out an occasional postcard, or share a drawing/cartoon just with their supporters. I’m guessing most artists get a little money each month, while ones who are very popular may get a good amount. I would assume you wouldn’t want so many patrons to please that you once again have no time to be creative.

Anyway, it got me thinking. What on earth would I do for “premium content” that anyone would actually want? Photos of the animals? Tarot card of the day? Identify a bug or snake? Honest, I am grasping at straws here. I think my little introspective creations are fine for myself and for others to read for free, but it’s not the kind of thing people pay for.

Art! That’s it! I call this “Giant peach and laptop background,” by SA Kendall

So, I’m asking: If Suna were to offer “premium content,” what would you like it to be?

Answer in the comments (or on Facebook, or in person). If the answer is “nothing,” don’t worry. I agree with you!

What? I Should Look at the Calendar More Often

Aha! I’ve been so busy dealing with the state of the world and the state of my job that I forgot to look at the calendar to see that I totally missed our “blog-a-versary” on April 11! While I’ve been blogging a LONG time, off and on, it’s just TWO YEARS for The Hermits’ Rest blog.

Be glad this doesn’t have sound. I can’t play piano and I can no longer sing!

While I’ve not become a super influencer or celebrity blogger, I’ve enjoyed creating a community of frequent readers and have enjoyed getting to know some fellow WordPress bloggers, which has been a surprising benefit. Enjoy some stats:

We’re coming up on 27,000 hits in the past two years. Not a lot, but not bad.

Followers, explained

According to the stats in the sidebar, 933 people follow the blog. I did not believe that until I finally figured out where all those people came from, which is social media. I figured out that Social is a combination of my Facebook and Twitter followers. Ah.

Continue reading “What? I Should Look at the Calendar More Often”

Some New Pages

Hey readers! If any of you happen to visit the website for this blog, you will see a few new pages on the top menu.

New topics, ooh aah!

I saw a feature on someone else’s blog that I decided to imitate (especially since someone actually ASKED for this). You can now see a list of blog posts on some of the most popular topics from the past year or so. They have little excerpts of the posts, so you can decide if you want to read more. I’ve made:

Rants and Ramblings: These are the posts where I talk about issues that matter to me or what currently makes me annoyed. Always a favorite.

Animal Tales: For those of you who love our dogs, the equines, or the chickens. Here they are, in all their glory.

Nature and Travel: Naturalists and lovers of scenery might enjoy this section.

I’m hoping this might help anyone looking for old favorites, or wants to browse and see a little about each post.

Any ideas for other pages?

Top Posts of 2019

A blogger I enjoy (V, of Millennial Life Crisis), posted her top posts of 2019. I wondered what mine were, so I checked. Here ya go.

Suna’s Top Five Posts of 2019. Go Suna.

What were these about? I’ll share in a bit. But what really interests me is that they aren’t necessarily my most fascinating posts; instead at least the first few are on there because someone else shared them. Thanks, other people!

Bar Blogging: This post from April was me “live blogging” a performance by a young woman named Emma G, who is a friend of my ranch neighbors. Anita and I went with Sara to see her, and had a great time. Someone must have linked to my post from their page, because it keeps getting hits every day or so. it really makes me wonder why it’s gotten MORE popular in recent months.

So, I have fired up the Google Search Console, and when it finishes processing, I’ll let y’all know why this post is so popular.

Book Review: Dignity: I know why this one from June got lots of hits. In addition to being a review of a really interesting book about the underclasses in the US, the author saw my review and tweeted it. I wrote a little bit about it (in one of my posts that got the fewest hits this year, as a matter of fact). I was glad the author enjoyed my review. I hope lots of people are reading it. This is by FAR my most popular book review (usually they get a middling number of hits).

Crisis of Faith – Or Denomination: This is the post from last August where I share that I have decided to not be affiliated with any church or denomination, after many years as a Unitarian Universalist. I think a lot of people who are my UU friends read it and shared it. It turned out a LOT of people were thinking along the same lines. I think I made a good point about why an institutional fixation on political correctness can really alienate people, even those who basically agree with you.

Continue reading “Top Posts of 2019”

A Tribute to My Verbosity

I hit an unexpected milestone today. WordPress congratulated me for posting my 500th post on this blog. I feel like I just started it! However, it’s been 21 months. That’s an average of 24 posts a month. Verbose? Maybe…some of the posts are mostly photos. A few. Okay. Wordy is me.

Why, thanks, WordPress.

But, I do like to write. And I love nature and personal growth, which seem to be my favorite topics. I know we have more posts on the Hermit Haus Redevelopment blog, but I don’t write all those; I just edit many of them.

Yes! I was verbose! Type, type, type.

I made it a goal to share something every day, because writing gives me joy, and the dog can’t jump on it and ruin it, like my poor knitting.

Your encouragement means a lot.

So, thank you all for reading, commenting, and sharing. I learn so much from you all.

Who’s Lee? Does He Say Anything?

Lee as the cover of a romance novel for middle-aged women.

Lee is my spouse! I’ve mentioned him before, I just know it. Oh, I can be funny.

We will have been married 11 years on Friday. He’s a hermit. But he does right a lot. You’ve perhaps seen some of his posts on our Hermit Haus Redevelopment blog or the new Hearts, Homes and Hands blog. Still, he told me he wondered why no one seems to come across his personal blog, while I get a reasonable number of hits.

I told him no one’s going to just stumble over it; they have to know it’s there. I share.

Now I will share Lee!

If you’d like to learn a little bit about him, head over to The Hermitage, a blog he’s been keeping since I met him. There he gets to control all his HTML and format all his pictures exactly how he likes it, and that makes him happy.

None of this WordPress hand-holding for him! Right now, he’s sharing what he’s grateful for, and I’m happy to be one of those things.

I’m grateful for my spousal unit, too. He’s really kind, generous, stubborn, and occasionally grumpy. Other times, he’s funny and sweet. In other words, he’s human!

One thing that makes us a fun couple is how different we are. Go see him and find out for yourself! Give him a comment or follow him on Blogger.

Why Be So Open?

I was rather surprised at how many people looked at my post about changing my medication and food patterns yesterday. If I were out to make money, I know what kind of stuff would work and what would not work (hint: self examination wins, plant pictures and book reports lose, unless an author tweets about your post, which did happen last week). But, I’ll just forge ahead and write about what interests me, and I’ll enjoy whoever tags along. This here blog is not intended to lead to fame and fortune, like some people’s are.

What about my PRIVACY? You ask?

I am open and honest about myself here on the ole blog, or at least I try to be. I know some folks who are not comfortable doing this, and I totally respect them. Maybe they have something they need to keep from their employers or family members, and I get that. Other people fear the nefarious spies lurking all over the internet just looking for information on them so they can do…something…with it. (I know some folks who have dealt with stalkers, and I get that, but I also know people who use some totally made-up name and obscure their location.)

I can’t resist sharing when random houseplants bloom, either.

As for me, well, my boss and family know all my stuff, and there are a couple of things I don’t talk about because THEY own their stuff, not me. So, whatever’s going on in my head won’t ruin my “career” (ha ha, I believe I have a series of avocations, some of which pay money). I do not intend to run for public office, so none of the dumb stuff I did in my twenties or forties will ruin those aspirations. And I believe in learning from mistakes, which requires a lot of introspection. I “introspect” by typing. So, here’s a blog full of that.

Continue reading “Why Be So Open?”

Blogging for Sound

Lately I’ve been writing my posts with a combination of the computer and the phone. I can type a lot better on the computer, but there are certain things that are easier on the phone, like adding photos and videos.

In fact, I’ve been starting posts on the computer, with the nicer interface and more formatting options, then switching over and sticking in photos, which I then go back and edit on the computer. Modern blogging, I guess. Or lazy blogging. Do you have any other techniques for less hassle in your blogs?


This entry is about sound. I was listening to all the bird sounds on the front porch this morning, and I posted on Facebook that I was at church, with the birds preaching, saying amen, and singing. There were a LOT of starlings in one of the trees, so it was quite a cacophony.

The dogs and I listening to birds.

I decided to go out to the pond and record all the sounds there. I think it came out pretty nice, but it’s long, so I was not sure if I could get it into the blog. I ended up adding it to YouTube, which worked out well.

I do think the sounds of nature are as wonderful as the sights, so I am giving it a try! Now those of you who have never heard of a dicksissel can hear one and (sort of) see one!

Have a great rest of your Sunday.