Naturally, this discussion occurred within a larger context. We were discussing different ways to think about fear and had seen three different questions pop up.
- How could you act anyway if you knew it was going to all go wrong?
- What is the worst thing that could happen?
- What would you do if there was a real chance you could fail?
Looking at the questions as is I would answer all three of them differently because of the words used and the way they are structured in a sentence.
The first question is asking about moving on and finding a way to act even if everything goes wrong. The second question leads to a reflection about the things that might happen. And the last question leaves a bit of room for success.
That is how I understand the questions. And we all might find a different meaning in them. The interpretation we have is individual and yet often similar enough that words serve us well when communicating.
Misunderstandings happen when two people give words or sentences a different meaning.
But words and the structure of sentences are not the only layers creating meaning.
Another important layer is “context”. There are at least two ways to describe context:
- The text or the situation in which the question appears
- The timing of the question
Both of the above can influence how we understand a given question. The first one as it influences the mindset a person is in and the second one because of the need the person has at that moment.