Everyone knows what something means until there’s a problem (day 67)

This is a quote i found from a wonderful website about self defense. They’re amazing, but forewarning: it’s really easy to get lost there for hours, “just one more site” wikipedia-style.  Its by a lawyer, of course: not just because it sounds lawyer-ly, but because fighting over definitions is a *lot* of what lawyers do.

It comes up in my thoughts a lot.  So many things are brushed off with “you know what I mean” or “we don’t need to worry about that.”  And much of the time, those brush-offs are accurate.

But when there is a disagreement, there is a problem, those things matter.

Usually, there *was* a misunderstanding, which meant that people did things in ways that one party didn’t want.  The classic computer programmer joke comes to mind: “Husband is going to store, wife asks husband to get a loaf of bread while there…and if the store has eggs, get a dozen.  Husband returns home with a dozen loafs of bread.”  Context matters, but people frequently have different context.

The other problem is malice, which is less frequent but far more problematic.  This is the realm of “loopholes” and people exploiting systems and misinterpretations and vagaries for their own benefit.  Some people will take advantage of misunderstandings for their own benefit.

And that’s why its important to be okay with people wanting more clarity and definition, and to be wary of people brushing things off when you ask for more information, or you ask for things to be in writing.  Paperwork and defining and outlining things is a pain in the butt, but [if done correctly] means there’s less room for future problems, either willful or unintentional.


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