Twisted Tongue: When Others Manipulate Your Words

Effectively communicating with others can present enough challenges without the added issue of one who twists and distorts your words. Below is a transcript of a recent conversation I had with someone (who refers to himself as a member of the black race) on facebook. He posted the controversial chant “Black Lives Matter” in an attempt to garner support against the recent shootings of black men by white cops.(My posts are preceded by the initials JP.)

JP: Perhaps someone should inform the “black” community that their lives matter since black on black crime kills more blacks than any other. They need to start valuing themselves.
MS: If you believe that authority has the right to commit indiscriminate genocide on one race of USA citizens, may they start doing so on Caucasians, too.
JP: please DO NOT put words in my mouth or make ridiculous assumptions. NO WHERE in my post did I even elude to such nonsense. I am dealing with statistics that show the ratio of black on black killings vs other so-called races. (FYI: I do not buy into the man-made concept of race. There is only ONE race, the Human race and to perpetuate the myth only perpetuates racism.) How about we all just start valuing ALL life and leave it at that?
MS: Your blindness and deafness are not solving a thing. In fact, you are contributing to the problem.
JP: I’m not the one promoting racism, I promote equal value and equal rights for all humanity. THAT is the solution to the problem.

At no point did I even remotely suggest that anyone has a right to commit genocide on any other human being. Even my sincere attempt to clarify my original statement failed as is evident in MS’s response that I am blind, deaf, and a contributor to this specific atrocity against humanity. When another person added a post in support of MS, once again distorting my words, I respectfully bowed out of further dialogue.
Whether on social media, through text messages, or face-to-face conversation, we’ve all been subjected to those who twist and distort our words. In some instances, we ourselves are the guilty party. Let’s take a closer look at what happens, why, and how we can best handle ourselves in such situations.

What happens
Omission of keys words: “Excessive wealth is sinful” becomes “Wealth is sinful” to one arguing against the upper class with one who supports free enterprise.

Misinterpreted statements: A wife states, “I’m not buying any more junk food for this house” is angered by her husband who claims she’s prohibiting him from consuming any more snacks.

Fabrications and Exaggerations: Others may exaggerate what the other party is saying or completely fabricate new words. An example regarding abortion: one who is “pro-life” is misrepresented as “anti-women” by those who favor abortion. The opponent of a politician advocating cutting back on Medicaid to save the program funds a campaign accusing them of not caring about the poorest of the population.

Why this happens
People are passionate about certain subjects and are uncomfortable with opposing views. To even consider another’s perspective puts them at risk of realizing their position may not be as accurate as they previously believed. Those with insecurities cannot accept admitting they were mistaken or that the other person’s argument holds more truth than theirs. In that regard, they will seek to discredit the other party using some of the above mentioned strategies, try to make them look foolish or prove they’re “wrong”. They will only accept “proof” that supports their beliefs and continue to validate their level of intelligence, and will attempt to frustrate and incite the other enough to cause them to back off, thus creating the illusion of “winning”.

How to handle “tongue twisters”
Be confident in your position.
Be crystal clear in how you present your beliefs. Repeat or clarify only once.
Recognize and do not allow yourself to be intimidated by their manipulative tactics.
Accept and acknowledge their position as well even if you don’t understand or agree with it.
Refrain from trying to prove that you’re right and they’re wrong.
Allow the other party to maintain their dignity. Always be respectful when conversing with them. Be fair and firm.
Key: Know when to walk away and disengage. One cannot have a meaningful discussion with a closed and fearful mind.

And lastly, although it must always be first and foremost: look within yourself and recognize when you are distorting the words or message of the other party. Remember, as Ghandi said, “I must first be the change I want to see in others.”

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