Opinion: Finding blind spots

Commentary by Terry Anker

In any single day, we share thousands of words. We talk them. We type them. We write them – in block letters and cursive. We use these words to communicate, share ideas, and express our needs. Mostly, it works fairly well.

The speaker and the listener are bound to an unwritten contract committed to mutual understanding. The speaker is responsible to form cohesive and complete thoughts, empathetic to how the message is being received and perceived. The listener, for their part, works to ensure that they are asking clarifying questions wherever an understanding gap might exist, and listening intently with a specific goal of receiving the most accurate interpretation of the sender’s message. Over these many thousands of years, we humans have figured out much of how to make this process a successful one. Good.

Yet in our full and rich lives, we have developed more than a bit of shorthand, ever seeking to communicate with less overhead. On smartphones, we use emojis.  With voicemail, some refuse to listen, asking instead for a text from callers.  With traditional U.S. mail, many have called it too cumbersome to have much of a future. Even our own brains will fill in words from a sentence where they do not exist. In editing oneself, draft after draft will omit words. Sentences are nonsensical, but our mind fills in, deceiving us that it all makes sense. It isn’t until a new, objective reader finds the error that our own perception allows us to see the folly.

If our own understanding of our own thoughts is so strong that it causes us to misperceive the specific words on paper, what else in our lives is not really there – at least as we imagine it to be? How do we find our own blind spots?