Ever since I can remember my family has considered me to be different. I have always had a unique thought process and marched to the beat of my own drummer. All my relatives would say that I was special. My birthday cards usually contained the word special, either underlined or in quotes. At first I appreciated my “special” standing in the family and I believed my unique perspective and personality was being celebrated. However, the term began to lose its luster for me when time after time I would express a thought that was different and it would be received with a wink of the eye and the line “Isn’t she special.” Although the word special usually represents something exceptional as in a “special treat” or a “special occasion”, I started noticing references to all sorts of handicaps as ”special” and suddenly I found myself offended.

All too often  words which start out with one meaning are changed by a person or a group of people and before you know it multiple meanings can be interpreted. The word special was originally meant to convey something unique and yet despite this fact, I cringe whenever I hear that word associated with me in any way.

I oftentimes marvel as to how colors are perceived by different people. No one can be absolutely certain that the color they perceive is the same as it appears to others. For instance I see green as green whereas you might see it as purple and still call it green. It is possible that you learned what you see as purple is called green and we both call different colors by the same name. There is no way to know if what you and I see is really the same color. We may be experiencing something totally different and yet refer to it by the same name never knowing if in fact we actually experience it the same way. This holds true for other sensory perceptions as well. Perhaps we all indeed  have the same preferences but are merely labeling them differently and therein lies the discrepancy.

Words and perceptions play key roles in relationships.
Taking this into consideration when dealing with others is of immense value. I have witnessed all too many times people getting stuck on a phrase or word used by someone else and not being able to get past it. People find themselves perplexed by preferences of others both in terms of words they use and other choices they make. At times they can be so put off that the relationship can come to a screaming halt because of it. This has left many dumbstruck as to what was the offense that caused such a result.

The fact that some may hate the word special while others adore it and some may experience green as purple indeed does complicate our relationships. A few important lessons to keep in mind to foster healthier relationships are:

1. Understand that even when we may speak the same language of origin we may not be speaking the same language of intent.

2. If you find a person confounded when you are  trying to tell him something, note that your words may not be effective and try to reconstruct your sentence in an entirely new way.

3. People may experience various stimuli in different ways. If someone else has a negative reaction to something you find harmless you may be experiencing it altogether different from them.

Adhering to these rules can enable us as a society to have problem solving skills and to build a better future. It may take a lot of time and energy in the short term but it will save many future disasters from occurring. In addition it opens many opportunities for growth and building through improved communication and understanding thereby leaving us with long term results that are surely worthwhile.