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“Tell it like it is” or “say what you mean” are worthy admonitions to everyone whose job depends on good communication skills. Some words work well to increase communication and others fail miserably. Often though, those words get lost in the final translation and those who are paid to keep the lines of communication open botch the job.
Building strong communication in a community is dependent on words, so when a phrase from the old boom days surfaced in a recent newspaper article, the idea of open communication became less viable. A recent news announcement about countywide meetings on the “visioning process” took me back to the time where weighty words or phrases, such as “mitigating the impact,” were used to describe mundane situations and events handled by people in the course of their daily lives. The specter of such government-ese creating a bureaucratic boondoggle looms.
Vision is a word that gets all tangled up when “-ing” is tacked on to the end. It makes a word an active participant in what previously was a passive role in a conversation. When someone says they had a vision, the word conveys possibility with little restriction. Suddenly if one is “visioning,” all that magic is gone.
I thought I was interested in finding out how everyone in the community sees the future. Guess not, if what they are really doing is “visioning” the coming decades. For some reason, sitting in one more meeting hearing “findings from the initial data collection, review for the ongoing visioning process, and the gathering of additional feedback” wasn’t appealing. Seeing the future is tough enough as it is, but the thought of listening to people drone on and on with dry statistics rather than presenting survey results in a way that leads to lively conversation stopped me cold. The use of the word community in front of the term “visioning process” makes me wonder exactly who is doing the seeing. Are Meeker and Rangely residents expected to gather together to give their views or to listen to someone else’s perception of their views?
I have a friend whose folksy expressions sum up a situation perfectly. When he is outside using equipment that claims to get rid of unsightly weeds, he calls it “goosing weeds.” He seems to be under no illusion that his efforts will result in the demise of those pesky weeds. When he is having trouble getting up off the couch, he attributes it to “a bad case of the clatters and squeaks.” The meaning of those down-home phrases is undeniable and no one ever asks him to explain himself more succinctly.
There has to be a middle ground somewhere. As an avid survey results reader, I look to see where my friends and neighbors stand on many issues. I continue to be a strong believer in the importance of taking an issue to the people, when a community decision must be made, but I object to the use of perfectly good words to gum up the process.