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What Are Words?

I am a Professional Debt Collector that is trying to find a fair and equitable way to collect money that is legally due to creditors, expose Illegal Debt Collection Practices, and offer a service that builds communities up, rather than the way I was taught by my employers for over two decades.

Can Debt Collections be done in a way that is respectful, non-judgmental, and in a way that offers guidance, resources and suggestions to consumers in resolving outstanding alleged debts? The company I work for has been trying to develop a system that is focused on helping people find solutions for the past 5 years.

The Collection Agency I work for is not well liked by some of our peers in the Credit and Collection Industry. Many hard-line Debt Collectors that use the "By Whatever Means Necessary" approach, do not like us telling consumers about their Rights and educating consumers about what they can do to stop abusive, demanding, illegal debt collectors. On the other side, some consumer advocates/watchdogs do not know what to think about the Agency I work for because, they see it, hear about us, and even test us and find out it is for real.

When a person doubts or is afraid to try something new, the most unfortunate thing that happens to that person is they limit themselves by becoming afraid to change. I say, give yourself a chance! Give others a chance to experience something new.

From the business stand-point it is great. from the Human being stand-point, it is GRAND! We have proved it to thousands, and we have helped thousands. No one has ever complained in the over 5 years we have been using this approach and we have over 250 clients , millions of dollars in business, we're able to sleep at night and live with ourselves, our bills are all current, and we have money in the bank.

I am not saying that I do not have to draw a line when someone takes advantage of me and lies to me. Those circumstances arise and it is a very simple matter of using the legal system in place to remedy the matter as best I can.

The following information will help those that want to use there Heart and Heads instead of the Neanderthal, Barbaric Reactionary Method of communicating with others. It can be used to help people but also it can be abused as with most things in life. My hope is that you will use it to find truth.

I learned a lot from listening. One day when I was listening to a man talking to me about what he was going through and he was explaining what happened to him and why he was unable to pay a bill he said, "James, to be honest with you, I just don't have any money." For some reason I thought about it a second and I posed him a question. I asked, "Why did you say, to be honest with you?" He was silent for longer than usual and then asked me, "what do you mean?" I told him that I did not want to offend him but for some reason the words "TO BE HONEST WITH YOU" just stood out and I was trying to find out why.

After I was done talking with the consumer I came to the conclusion that he must have said "To be honest with you" because he wanted me to know he was being honest with me. Yet, it did make me ask myself; was this person partially or entirely dishonest in the past with me? Why would the person try to make a point to let me know they were being honest. If a person did not lie than they would not say "To be honest with you".

Words people speak can reveal the truth. "What a man confesses out of his mouth he believes in his heart," Words can be used like a lie detector. Words can reveal if someone is telling the truth or not. Words are very powerful. The Holy Bible states: "In the beginning was the Word. . ." The Word was spoken and the world and everything in it was created.

A person can create many different moods, environments, circumstances and situations with words. For example, a young man carrying an old mans grudge can spread words (like seeds) of racial separation and prejudice and bring forth fruits of hate or the young man can carry a message like "I have a dream" and unite people with hope and love. Words are like a two edged sword, able to cut to the bone and effect the very soul of a person. Words create peace and war, love and hate, unity and divisions, and for those that believe, eternal salvation or damnation.

If words are so important wouldn't it be wise to know everything we can about words? Isn't it possible to hear behind and beyond the literal meanings of expressions? In daily life our conversation says both much more and much less than is intended. These are the meanings behind our ordinary talk. Hidden messages we can hear in talk. As a caveat, I always consider that no meaning is ever absolute. Meaning is in the speaker, listener, and circumstance.

Effective talk is a blend of many skills evolved over a long learning period. It cannot be forced into early bloom anymore than a child can be made to speak before he is ready. Listening is another stumbling block. Although we must listen before we can talk, many of us forget this elementary fact and listen, if at all, only to the sound of our own voice. Others adopt certain words and phrases and repeat them over and over like a child who has learned a new word or an adolescent with the latest bit of teenage jargon. Correspondingly, many fail to listen for these words, sounds, inflections, muse and the meaning behind the words they hear. This can be as limiting as being able only to say and comprehend ''oui'' while in France.

As REO Speed wagon, I think, put it so nicely; "If you want someone to understand you, you have to speak to them in there own language (can't tune a piano but you can tune a fish.)

A mother mouse and a baby mouse were out walking one day. Suddenly, a cat jumped out to corner them. The mother mouse said ''Bow wow'' and the cat ran away. The mother turned to the baby and said, ''See the advantage of knowing an extra language?'' Understanding some things I would like to share with you will be like knowing an extra language.

In the office of a California lawyer is a sign: "I know you believe you understand what you think I said. But I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.''

The statements underline some of the problems involved in talk. Talk would present relatively few problems if it involved only the apparent meanings of the words that we use. However, this is not the case. Talk exists on at least three levels of meaning: what the speaker is saying; what the speaker thinks he is saying; and what the listener thinks the speaker is saying.

The first level requires little consideration; simply dealing with the words a person uses, without considering how they are understood. The words do not in themselves carry any emotional messages. They are like the transcript of a court room trial, stripped of all emotional context.

The way a person says ''How do you do?'' can convey many different messages, but written down, the words themselves do not reveal ''what'' has been said. The circumstances and context would have to be known before we could give depth of understanding to the multiple possibilities.

The second and third levels require much more consideration than the first. Here is where the differences may arise; while the speaker thinks he is being understood on one level, the listener may be listening on an entirely different level.

Illustrating the confusion that can arise is the story of the grandmother who tells her teen-aged Granddaughter, ''There are two words I don't want you to use. One is "swell" and the other is "lousy.' '' ''Okay Grandma,'' says the girl, ''what are the two words?''

The speaker may say something that on the surface appears quite innocuous, when, as a matter of fact, that is the impression he wants to give in order to divert the listener from the importance of the words. However, the listener may understand the speaker's intentions and understand him at a deeper level. Lovers, husbands and wives learn this early in their relationships.

This greater understanding actually improves communication, but it does not necessarily resolve difficulties. It may cause more. We should not, however, stop at this point. We agree that greater understanding in communications is advantageous and add that it also can lead to new difficulties. However, it is nonetheless true that a still further increase in our understanding may eventually eliminate some of these new difficulties.

There are still other problems involved in understanding talk. It is possible that a message is not necessarily complete on any or all of the three levels. Although it is not my intention to determine what may be true in a particular situation, I do consider the types of mental gymnastics that a speaker and a listener may go through to determine meaning. It is easy to appreciate their difficulties.

As an example, a basic precept of general semantics is that ''the word is not the thing.'' This means the object can never be the same as the word that designates it. 'The word is merely a symbol. We should not expect the same nutritional value from the menu as from the food it represents. On another level the same holds true of phrases that we use. They abstractly symbolize feelings, attitudes, emotions and the like. Even the same person using the same phrase twice may intend vastly different meanings.

Think of the many differences that exist between a speaker and listener cultural coloring, personal connotations, the predigested emotions and intellect which are poured into every phrase used. They almost justify our frequent inability to transmit clear meanings.

Stale, worn-out phrases and expressions, known as clichés, are frequently used by people too lazy or unimaginative to perceive a situation and describe it freshly. Clichés can be thought of as verbal tics. They are convenient because long use has made them acceptable. However, these pre-packed sentiments never quite fit the immediate situation. They lack the type of mental challenge which furthers communication. A cliché usually elicits a reaction of mere silence or the mouthing of another cliché.

A single word when used expressively and for a certain effect can become a cliché. One such is ''incidentally'' used to introduce a statement. This, and the companion phrase, ''by the way'' should mean and are intended to mean, ''Just by chance I happen to think of this.'' These are relatively harmless devices often used by people who are shy or unsure of themselves. They want to work up the courage to say what they mean. When you hear them you probably should blame yourself for failing to recognize the previous verbal and nonverbal signals which indicated that the other person had something which he considered important to say. They are also used where the person wants to mislead you into thinking that what he has to say is unimportant.

Platitudes, aphorisms, maxims, and the like are major indicates for a cliché-ridden conversation. The sentiments expressed can be misleading. Take for example, those favorite observations at wakes, ''Here today, gone tomorrow'' and "God takes those first He loves best.'' In the event of a sudden death they are apt if not very comforting, but if used at the funeral of an 89-year-old woman, they sound grotesquely funny.

One trouble with familiar sayings is that they act as a brake to effective communication. They over instant wisdom that does not lend itself to verification through logic or experience. Very often the sayings contradict each other: Married in haste, we may repent at leisure vs. A stitch in time Saves nine; He who hesitates is lost vs. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread; Look before you leap vs. Faint heart never won fair lady.

The worldly wisdom that is allegedly yours through the use of stale expressions that have become clichés is neither worldly nor wise. ''You can't teach an old dog new tricks'' has kept many a person from attempting a new and potentially rewarding change in their life. The only thing he is left with is the realization that he will never know if he was or wasn't equal to the challenge. ''Don't rock the boat'' has sunk many an enterprise because of excess caution when a creative alternative was available.

Even if a person gets by ''Don't rock the boat'' they will be discouraged and probably stopped by ''You can't fight City Hall,'' or that other cliché, "That's just the way things are.''

Examine the words and phrases that you use to excess. They have become clichés for you at least, no matter how aptly they may be used by other people. A good exercise is to rearrange suspected clichés. Would you, for example, be more likely to read a newspaper article headlined ''You Can't Fight City Hall'' or one topped with the headline "You Can Fight City Hall''?

Many years ago school children were forced to memorize what they considered dreadfully dull poem of Longfellow's called "The Arrow and the Song.'' Someone finally relieved the monotony by juxtaposing the first two lines with a later line, producing these results:

"I shot an arrow into the air, It fell to earth, I knew not where. Later I found it in the heart of a friend."

A similar device is to change the position of a single element in a sentence. watch what happens in the following riddle and answer: What is harder than getting a pregnant elephant in the back seat of a car? Getting an elephant pregnant in the back seat of a car.

Clichés are given new life with a fresh twist, as: "Behind every successful man is a woman with nothing to wear''; A man's castle is his home if he is president''; or "Noisy barrels are also lighter.''

Altering a cliché may make it more bearable to the listener, but better still, if possible, discard them. Approach each new life situation with a fresh viewpoint unshackled by ''trite truisms'' ''stale aphorisms'' and ''verbal tics.''

An additional reason for finding clichés objectionable is that they put a certain distance between reality and what we say. In a book called "How to Read a Person Like a Book" I learned the gestures that indicate like and dislike. In some cases the degree of like or dislike can literally be measured by the actual distance between the speaker and the listener.

Albert Mehrabian in Silent Messages has made use of what he calls "the immediacy principle'' to evaluate how people react to others. He says, "People are drawn toward persons and things they like, evaluate highly and prefer; and they avoid or move away from things they dislike, evaluate negatively, or do not prefer. This is something I understand but need to practice more.

What I would like to share with you can also indicate likes and dislikes, not by actual statements of preference but by ( 1) order of words, (2) choice of words, and (3) grammatical usage. We will talk more later.

TO BE CONTINUED ( James Hunt)


 

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