Misunderstandings

“An apology costs nothing but can save a situation or even a friendship. ” Judith Baxter

One of the blogs that I follow is Lisa’s at Woman Wielding Words.  Lisa’s blog dated 2 October (yesterday, today?) talked about Blogging Etiquette among other things.  This post led to a number of very interesting comments and I would direct you to them.

Having read it and thought about it and the comments I then thought of how very easy it is to upset people even in the real world.  I wrote about my week a couple of days ago and told of how I had been taken out to high tea.  A thoroughly enjoyable experience but one that I thought was misnamed.

Afternoon tea

I had occasion to call the tearoom  the next day (to tell them that 500 grams of loose tea was far too much for me) and to tell  them how much I enjoyed the experience.  While doing so, I took the opportunity to point out, in what I thought was a very pleasant manner, the difference between high and afternoon tea.  Meaning to share some constructive not destructive criticism.

English is not the first language of Henry to whom I spoke and imagine my surprise when I had a message on my i-Phone (can’t resist that plug for my new toy) from the owner saying that she understood I had been disappointed in the tea and could not understand why.  She pointed out, quite sharply, that they were not trying to be traditional and in fact, were trying something different.

I immediately called back to speak with her and got her mother – apparently she is involved in the management of the tearoom – to be told that her daughter is very susceptible sensitive to criticism.  I explained again the reason for my comment and assured her that I had enjoyed the experience greatly.  But I wonder if she was convinced.

So I shall have to make another trip to that tearoom, not only to sample that wonderful tea blend once again but also to make peace with this woman whose ego is so fragile.

This experience has brought to mind once again, the inherent dangers in communicating in ways other than face to face.

Best friends

Communicating in person, face to face er.. dog to dog.

`Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
`I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, `so I can’t take more.’
`You mean you can’t take less,’ said the Hatter: `it’s very easy to take more than nothing.’
`Nobody asked your opinion,’ said Alice.”
From Alice in Wonderland of course.

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36 responses to “Misunderstandings

  1. I like just a tiny pinch of cinnamon in my tea.

  2. Sorry that your gentle comments got twisted round by the recipient.

    Love the interplay between Alice, the March Hare, and the Mad Hatter ~ perfect for this post. 😀

    • The twist was unintentional. I understand that can happen so easily when English is not the recipient’s first language. Oh well, it gives me an excuse to revisit the tearoom. 🙂

  3. Communication can be tricky in any language. So many filters to pass through. Giving and receiving feedback can be full of pitfalls.
    A return visit may just do the trick and the spread on the table looks very inviting.

  4. I understand what you mean about subtle communication being difficult in a language other than one’s first. I think this may be why I can’t get into a certain very celebrated writer’s books, even though I do believe that he is as brilliant as others say. I think my problem is with the translations of his books into English. Something always feels missing and very distant to me in his language, yet so many others keep assuring me his writing is inviting and brilliantly warm.

    I’ve also had communications with some people who understand English very well, but who bring so much ‘baggage” along to every conversation that doesn’t praise them, that they misinterpret much of what’s being said. I’m still practicing my skills in letting that go.

    I think it’s the probability of being misunderstood that makes the smiley face so popular. I don’t like it technically, but many times it’s shorthand for, “I meant this in a nice way. “Where would we be with out it? 🙂

    • Thanks for dropping by, reading and leaving a comment. It certainly is easier to make one’s motives clear in a face to face situation. I have always been very aware of this and try not to provoke anybody either on the phone or in an email. Obviously, as in this case, not always successfully.
      I too have found reading a book translated into English to be hard work even though others have raved about the book. Often I give up. I find it pointless to persevere and then go onto a book written by somebody with whom I can empathise.
      I have been over to your blog and shall certainly return.

  5. You are so right, things can be misconstrued so easily, sometimes even when meeting face to face. I hope you can smooth things over, and enjoy another cup of tea there.

  6. I’m a great believer in the quote from Thumper in Bambi ” If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”
    I try so hard not to upset anybody that it’s upsetting to me to think my words might have been misunderstood.
    Hope the second visit puts your mind at rest as well as your stomach. 🙂

  7. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words)

    It sounds like this person may take it wrong even face-to-face, but it does look like a lovely tea. 😉 Thanks for the link to my post.

  8. “An apology costs nothing but can save a situation or even a friendship. ” Beautiful words from a wise and generous person. I have seen and experienced these very words myself, a few in fact. It helps to be humble, to extend forgiveness or ask forgiveness. Life is too short to have enemies or loose great friends. the more friends the merrier. Have a blessed day my friend.Thank you.

    • Thank you for the comment. On many occasions I have seen where an apology bridges a gap and makes a difference. I am not slow to apologise. It costs nothing and achieves much. 🙂

  9. You shouldn’t own or operate a business if you’re thin skinned. You have to be prepared for criticism. Good or bad or otherwise. It’s part of the plan. I think it was very nice of you to call and give your opinion and maybe let them know what you feel could be a slight improvement or thought. I would think they would appreciate the feedback. I’m always up for improvement and welcome suggestions on my life or me. Got any?

    • Always looking for suggestions for improvement too. But most of us don’t take criticism too well and I feel for this woman who is in business with such a weak ego. But I shall go back and try again, 🙂

  10. some conversations are just lose/lose!

  11. It’s true. I can recall endless times where a text or an email resulted in a huge miscommunication. Having all these options of contacting people is wonderful, but not so safe when many generally assume the worst about people. Like you in this situation, I don’t like to leave conflict or misunderstandings unresolved. I hope you get the opportunity to make peace. Take care!

  12. Could it not be that in New Zealand ‘High Tea’ has a different meaning than in England? Here in the UK, the expression High Tea has pretty much died out, instead some people refer to an evening meal as ‘Tea’ and some refer to afternoon tea as ‘Tea’, so it can get incredibly confusing. I get particularly confused when someone is coming to visit and says to expect them at ‘tea time’ as I don’t know which variety of ‘Tea’ they mean!

    A bit sad though that the woman got offended by what you said. How about sending her a nice postcard and just ‘sorry for the misunderstanding’ on the back with some reference to the day you went. That way she’d have it in writing.

    Mind you, if that photo is anything to go by, you could call it a ‘tall tea’ instead!

    It is very easy to upset people but then without having known someone for years, how could one do otherwise from time to time?

    • Hi Val. This is the first time I have seen the expression used in the 40+ years I have lived in New Zealand. Some people refer to the evening meal as tea but most talk about dinner.
      I like the idea of the postcard and might take such a card with me on my next visit and leave it for her. I do intend to go back because it is such a different and lovely place.
      Thanks for the comment.

  13. It is challenging, indeed, this art of communication. Just when we think we’ve got it mastered–we have to go back to the drawing board. Thanks for this entertaining & instructive blog. (Followed you here from Robin’s blog in the Bogs of Ohio.)

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting. Well we can all learn and shall be more careful in future.
      I follow Robin;s blog too and love her photography and words. 🙂

  14. So true, Judith. Nothing beats face to face. Although I do like Val’s idea of sending a postcard. 🙂

  15. Hello Judith,

    You always having something worth reading on your blog. Thank you.
    I have awarded you The Versatile Blogger Award.
    http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/vba-rules/

  16. I applaud you wanting to go back and clarify things. So many of us would just not return and possibly miss out on something special. Do let us know how it goes!

  17. Misunderstandings can happen regardless of the lengths one may go through to ensure they don’t….I think we ALL have experienced this once or twice, I know I have. It’s very nice of you to go back there and make sure she realizes your true meaning in what you said, though. 🙂
    I could see where some people might just forget it and move on!

    • I learn something new every day and what did I learn from this? To be extra careful particularly when the message is going to be relayed by somebody whose first language isn’t English. 🙂

  18. I’m sorry you were misunderstood, and I know it is important for you to set things right. I hope it works, for both your sakes. Isn’t it hard to have to walk on eggshells with some people? Sigh.

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