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A Distinction Without a Difference

A Distinction Without a Difference

The other day I heard the phrase, “a distinction without a difference”. This caught my attention because if there is no difference, how is it distinct? I was so intrigued that IA Distinction Without a Difference found myself pondering it later that evening over a whiskey and cigar, because I needed to relax and think clearly ?. Once I settled in, I began to realize that there are regular occurrences of this saying in daily conversations. I often hear “I don’t disagree” or “it’s not a lie, I just stretched the truth a little” . If you think about it, there is no distinction between “I don’t disagree” and “I agree”, nor is there a difference between lying and stretching the truth. They are what they are: differences without distinction.

You’ll recall that my superpower is to keep things simple, so the implication of “differences without distinction” is very frustrating to me. Using different words to say the same thing seems useless, however it is common practice these days. To me, keeping things simple is saying what needs to be said in a direct way. If I agree, I say so. If I disagree, I say so. Why mince words and confuse my message with more words than necessary to get the same point across? The answer is that although it is never my intent, some may take my straightforward responses as brash, uncaring, or even rude.

A friend of mine described it best by stating that I sometimes communicate like a bazooka, and maybe I should deliver my message like I would a water balloon: gently, rather than a direct, hard hit. I’d still be saying the same thing, just in a different way; a distinction without a difference. The response in my head was, “what crap!!”. Whether I am a bazooka or a water balloon…my message MEANS THE SAME THING!!! However, over time I have learned to meet people where they are at.

I learned that it is important to know your audience and the circumstances of the conversation. Once you do, delivering your message (either good or bad) in a different way loses nothing, yet gains everything. Think about the impact you wish to have on the people you are speaking to, and then choose your words carefully. Meeting people where they are, whether they prefer to hear your opinion delivered like a bazooka or a water balloon, will help you continue to strengthen your relationship with them.

Back to my original example of saying “I agree” or “I don’t disagree”. “I agree” is a positive message, one that puts the receiver immediately at ease, whereas saying “I don’t disagree” does not immediately send a positive message and can be confusing. Would you prefer “I agreed with you” or “I didn’t disagree with you”? Would you rather purchase a “used car” or a “pre-owned” one? Truth is, IT’S THE SAME THING! But the words make you feel differently, don’t they?

Which do you prefer? Let me know.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”– Tony Robbins

Have a distinctly different weekend.