I have just had a conversation with someone who was a little incredulous at the fact that they'd been wished a 'Happy All Saint's Day' by their local cleric. They'd just been explaining how this was the first All Saint's since their parent had died and how hard it was for them and then, as they parted, the good wishes for the day were imparted.
So they rang me with the opening words, 'Bl***y hell Vicar, do your colleagues have any idea what this weekend means to people who have lost loved ones?'
So of course I had to say that we did and that they'd merely been on the wrong end of someone who wasn't thinking when they spoke (something I am a master of*) and that they weren't diminishing the pain and loss nor being callous or uncaring, they were merely being a bit thick (and possibly insensitive too)! 'Well they can stick their poxy service on Sunday,' they said, and that was that.
Yes indeed folks, logopodiea is often a terminal disease!
It's so easy to say things that are taken the wrong way - easier still to write them and have that happen - but this is something that we all (yes, laity as well as clergy) need to take care with. many of us have fallen into the,' Ooh, you look nice today,' trap - one of the prime examples that communication is not intent but reception in which the hearer hears, 'Ooh, you look nice for a change!'
I was once to the side of a conversation where a parishioner and cleric were in conversation and they were talking about a sister who had died a long and lingering death and how they were off up to Scotland for the funeral next week. The hapless cleric asked where they were going to be in Scotland and when they told them responded with the parting shot, "Well have a nice time it's a lovely place to be visiting!'
The other party walked away looking stunned - as was the cleric when I told them that they were going for their sister's funeral.
'Gosh, I'd lost concentration,' they said, "I thought they'd moved on from the ill sister and were talking about holidays!' A few week's later I met the cleric again and on enquiring how they'd managed to overcome the gaffe found that the person had written to say they were moving church!
One of the most important thing we can have is the understanding that what we say is a small part of the communication process - the greater part comes in the hearer hearing what we meant to say and this is the skill we need to be developing. That and listening such that we can better understand what the other person is saying too of course.
So here's a little shot across the bows for all of us in case we ever think it is a good idea to wish people happy **********.
* Many years back I was lecturing somewhere and threw in the comment that the topic was so simple you could have gone to Keele and still understood it (my mate at the back did and did!). The woman on the front row stood and said (in a loud voice), 'I went to Keele' - 'Don't worry,' I said without thinking), 'There's pictures'.
If looks could kill, whenever I met, they would have done. Always been a problem my sense of humour so realise that this entry is as much, perhaps more, for me that those reading it!
logopodiea - the proper name for what is commonly called 'foot in mouth' disease.