Have you ever had a conversation with someone and come away feeling frustrated?  Is your frustration because you don’t think you have been heard properly or you felt you were on different page?

Perhaps you or a friend has been upset because what you said was interpreted differently to the intention.  When, even in your own mind, you were very clear on what you were saying or asking.

We all believe we know what a word or phrase may mean. However, sometimes we can be at cross purposes with each other and even ourselves.

What I mean is when do we really sit back and think what a word or phrase really means.

I’m not talking about the definition of a word’ we can all find them in a dictionary or via google.  I’m talking about what a word or phrase means to you.

A good example

For me, a good example, is this quote by the legendary ‘Beatle’ John Lennon.  It is one I particularly love.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when i grew up.  I wrote done ‘happy’.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life”

I expect we all got asked what we wanted to do when we are older. The majority of us would have come up with the jobs of our idols or family members. I don’t expect many of us would have said happy.

So, with that word in mind.  What does happy mean to you? I expect we will all take a minute or two to define it.

Have you heard people say that they have strived for their career and/or had a family because they saw other people having all of this and they were happy.  Yet, when they achieved it themselves, they still felt that something was missing and wasn’t feeling the elation others showed.

Each persons definition of ‘being happy’ is different.


I’ve had conversations with people who have dismissed what others have said because of their perception.  The perception of who they believe that person is and also what that word or phrase means to them.

Have you heard people say one of these in response to a comment

  • ‘Don’t be silly of course you’re confident’
  • ‘No one can be happy living on their own’
  • ‘Wow, they are so brave I wouldn’t do that’
  • ‘I wouldn’t say they were a success’

What’s your meaning?

I ask you to think about what the following words mean to you.  Don’t define them.  Think about how you know in yourself that you are feeling, achieving or being this word:

  • Happy
  • Courageous
  • Loved
  • Confident
  • Successful
  • Kind
  • Strong
  • Healthy
  • Brave

Once we are clear what the words mean to us individually.  We can then measure where we are against them and if we are living them.

Next time you have a conversation I encourage you to pause and ask what a certain word means to the person you are talking to.  Seek to understand both your meanings and where they come from.

Don’t judge or compare each others definition.  Hearing what they say about a word for them will be interesting and insightful let alone how they are living towards it.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash