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Why do some words cause debates?

Have you ever had those debates with friends or family on what a word means? Such as the word respect, love, or power. For example: The word respect for some may be as simple as having the right manners, for others it may be how they feel they should be treated. However, when you ask what this word means you may get a totally different answer dependent upon their beliefs or how they see the world.

This is the same for many words that bring up feelings and experiences when they are brought up in a conversation. Especially with couples, friends or family members. Why do you think this is?

As children we develop different ideas of what words mean based on our experience or what we’ve been taught. Due to this fact, many people will have different meanings for words that instill feelings such as:

  • Respect
  • Love
  • Understand
  • Confident
  • Fulfilled
  • Peaceful
  • Powerful
  • Sensitive

And these are just a few of many words that can cause much debate amongst the best of friends. But when we look at a word, we need to simply look at the meaning the dictionary gives it and not based on our life experiences or beliefs. When we put our feelings aside we can simply look at the word itself, which in many cases can have several meanings, even by dictionary standards. But as with many debates it comes down to communicating your point and your listening skills. When we simply look at the facts of the word it allows us to have a conversation instead of a debate.

Two people may have a different understanding to the word “Peaceful” one may say it is the absence of agitation and the other may say it is the absence of loud sound. Both are right, and both understand the word “Peaceful” to mean something slightly different.

The next time you have a debate over the meaning of a word, consider listening with an open mind before interjecting your thoughts. And consider the old adage from an old school show, “just the facts, maa’m just the facts.”

Try this as a game; choose a word and ask your loved ones, colleagues, or friends what that word means to them. That will probably be a very interesting conversation.

Here’s to open minded conversation utilizing your listening skills for better communication amongst family/friends.


Doris Muna

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