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don’t make the same mistake twice (or the difference one letter makes)

October 25, 2011

I know you believe you understand what you thought I said,
but I hope you realise that what you think you heard me say is not what I meant.

On the plane back from Shanghai I watched a documentary about how our senses deceive us and how illusionists use our own senses against us. There is one particular effect where you can hear someone saying “ba” but if you see a mouth making a “fa” sound you will only hear “fa“. Even if you know what is going on you only hear “fa” because that is what your brain expects you to hear.

I thought that was interesting. Irrelevant, but interesting.

Do me a quick favour? Go back and read the title of my previous post. Just the title, then come back here.

Go on. Go here and read the title…

Now what did it say?

“my black belt in Aikido” ?


“my back belt in Aikido”?

I spend a fair bit of time trying to make sure that my posts communicate what I want them to communicate. I will admit to feeling a certain responsibility to be clear about when I want to be clear and when I deliberately do not. I know that I do not always get it right but I try.

I thought my last post was pretty clear. The pain I experience in my back has taught me a lot, including a lot about Aikido. I thought I had made that distinction until I talked to a couple of you who had read that post. But the context was one of Aikido and that seems to have set the mind to receive Aikido related information.

As a result they had never read the words “back belt” … only “black belt”. There is a difference. Only one letter but it makes a big difference.

What did you read? (Be honest and leave a comment on this post so I know one way or another.)

Either way it will make me think more carefully about the words I use when I try to communicate. It will prompt me to think about the context and the possibility for confusion or to accidentally rub people up the wrong way.

I hope it will remind me that the responsibility for being understood always sits with me and not with the person I want to receive my massage. That I will think twice before choosing “go” and “no” as my options to direct the diver of a vehicle.

I hope that you will not make the same mistake I did.

One litter can make all the difference.


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5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2011 9:59 am

    I read back belt and felt sorry for you for making such a big type in your title!

    3 others?

  2. October 25, 2011 10:00 am

    oops.. typo! *lol*

  3. Jodie permalink
    October 25, 2011 10:56 am

    When I read the title I thought “black belt”, but after reading the January 1st part I realised it meant “back belt” because you said you were aiming for a brown belt so why would you title it black belt?!

    I thought it was pretty clear.

    (diving, massage, litter)

  4. Gavin permalink
    October 25, 2011 4:09 pm

    Still saw the L the next time I read it. That first line of the blog even reinforced it for me. Maybe the context for the written blog may not always be controllable by the blog author?? How different our reference points are from each other.

    I agree with Jodie – for me NOW it was pretty clear.


  5. Megan permalink
    October 26, 2011 10:57 am

    At first, I read ‘black’ belt, but then as I moved through the post, about mid-way, I looked again at the Title and read ‘back’ belt … and smiled.

    It took me a few minutes, but I got it.

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