“Two years ago, a single conversation changed my life: My boss told me I needed to lose weight or kiss my job goodbye.” Tory Johnson had this revelation of a conversation and turned her whole life around by eating better, exercising, the whole nine yards. Only, this life-changing conversation never occurred. Tory continues, “Actually, she didn’t say that at all — but it’s what I heard … she said my clothes didn’t do me justice, and that she wanted to send me to a stylist.” People taking a meaning out of something that was never there is a common occurrence, and can in itself change lives. Johnson pulled her trick meaning out of thin air, because she already had the thoughts brewing in her mind, she already believed herself to be overweight.
It happens all the time. Just this afternoon, my mom asked me how much longer I would be on the computer, but I heard “Why are you taking so long? Are you even doing your work?” I saw this meaning in what she said because I was lollygagging, but because I was upset that my mother was “calling me out” on it made me pick up the slack and work harder. This bit of human nature that lets us create false meanings helps us to improve ourselves by thinking that other people are noticing our flaws and, even worse, calling us out on them.
Though I pride myself on being a good listener, I do make up false meaning a few times a day. It just lets me know that I can be better, or that I can do better than what I am exhibiting to the world. This way of listening is like our own little alarm that goes off whenever we aren’t being our best, or feel guilty about mistakes we’ve made. It isn’t a bad thing to listen this way, but you also have to remember that the meaning is coming from you, not the person you’re speaking with. Anger shouldn’t be taken out on the person you’re speaking with, it should be taken out on yourself to make you a more refined person.