Have you ever wondered how people know you? Not how they get to know of you, but what they think of when they need to describe you. I was trying to describe my friends and family as an exercise in character-development – it’s supposed to help you flesh out the people who populate your stories.
That’s when the oddity struck me. (You knew this had to be about an oddity, didn’t you?) Anyway, I found myself using qualities of personality when defining those I know. I might not know – heck, who am I kidding – I definitely don’t know much about what colours they like or what foods they prefer. I know their talents, but in many cases these are directly linked to traits that those talents expose in them. Mainly, I think of them in terms like nice, friendly, loyal, sincere, temperamental, optimistic, emotional, responsible, principled, etc. etc.
Then I sat and wondered how people would describe me (You also knew it had to come down to me, right?) and realised that in most cases, those around me describe me based on my talents. Not qualities I have developed or worked on, but simply things Allah (SWT) bestowed on me through my genes.
People mention now and again that I get good grades, or that I can use words well, or that I like to talk. But more than that, I would be hard pressed to find. The few times I have insisted on someone describing what they think of me, I’ve heard stuff I’m not sure I liked – someone once said I was sarcastic, which I don’t think I am and it took me a few more proddings to understand that what she meant was that I had a quick answer for things – which in my vocabulary is ‘witty’ 🙂
So then, how do we really describe people? I mean if we each use different words to mean different things – and in all honesty, unless you are a writer or work with words, you probably use a variety of words to mean the same thing without really going into the actual definitions of each. So, if I’m defining a word one way and you are another, but we rely entirely on the word itself to communicate what we mean, then I’m hearing something very different from what you’re saying… wars have been started because of misconceptions like those.
Next time you describe something or someone, make sure you take some time to explain what exactly you mean with your definition. It might cost you a few more minutes and a little more thought, but it will make a whole lot more of a difference.