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A Lesson in Words and Their Meanings

You know, somewhere along the line, we all forgot that certain words have specific meanings. We confused the issues, and allowed the complex jumblings of our disjointed lives to color the absolutes into shades of grey.

Therefore, in the interest of better human understanding, I offer up this little lesson:

Yes is a positive word. It means that one intends to do a specific thing about which one is asked, or, that a certain thing is correct.

Here's a little example:
"Hi John. Are you coming over tonight?
"Why yes," said John. "I am."

The above conversation shows that John has nothing planned otherwise and intends--no, make that certifies--that he will be going over to his fictitious friends place that evening. John should only make the above statement if he fully intends to do what he said. If he is unsure, or, if he isn't certain that other events he has planned for the day won't grow and extend themselves into overlapping into the time he said he was going to go over to his fictitious friends house, then he should choose a better word. Here's a good example:

"John, are you coming over tonight?"
"Maybe," said John. "I'm running a lot of errands today and I'm not quite sure if my girlfriend has made any plans for me, so tell you what: I'll call you later and let you know."

Here, John is being honest. John knows that if he says "Yes," his friends will sit and wait for him. Being a good friend, John wouldn't want his friend to give up their evening if John wasn't absolutely sure that he was going to be there. John realizes that he has a clingy, insecure girlfriend and knows that if he says yes, he's going to have to tell her that he's going over to his fictitious friend's house, no matter how much she whines or begs or needles or gives him Jewish guilt.

Here's another example:
"Betty, are you coming over tonight?"
"Yes," said Betty, "but I might be a little late. I'll just meet you guys at the bar."

Now Betty will be at that Bar. She said she would, and this doesn't mean if it's convenient at the time that she's supposed to leave. It doesn't mean that she'll be there IF the 520 floating bridge doesn't happen to be closed and she has to go five miles out of her way to get there. She said, "Yes." This word is an affirmative.

Now for the word most of you have trouble with.

"No." Repeat it. Again. And Again. Keep repeating it until you feel comfortable with it, because I'm here to tell you friends and neighbors, you're going to displease less people when you learn to use it more than you currently do. I know, I know. "But my friends will think I don't want to see them if I say 'No.'" That's not true. They know that you are their friends by the sheer fact that you're being honest with them and considering their feelings by not leaving them sitting, waiting, a feeling of being disrespected growing in their stomachs.

A friendship can handle only so many incidents like this. Eventually, the invitations stop.

So please, please, everyone out there, learn the meanings of the above words and don't be afraid to use them. They're the friends of clear communication. They will help you develop, maintain, and enrich your friendships. The only reason to maintain an ignorance of the above usage is if you really don't care about the individual to whom your speaking.

And in that case, if it happens to be me giving you the invitation, at least tell me to my face. I'd do the same for you. (Or to you, for that matter.)

If you recognize yourself in the above message, then unless you're completely dense, you will read the hurt between words. Sitting around, waiting for someone you truly care about, and then experiencing the dawning realization that you don't even rate an explanitory phone call is a difficult experience.

And it's also an experience I won't care to repeat too many times.

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of The Abyss

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