What Do You Mean?

Do people mean what they say and say what they mean?

This was the question my class chose when given the prompt expressing oneself.

My answer is no.

People don’t say what they mean. They are sadly not transparent.

Since reading Catcher in the Rye my answer is further confirmed. Holden will say “yes” to someone but in his own thoughts completely contradict himself.

He thinks things like “I probably would’ve told her what really happened, but it would’ve taken too long.”

Photo by: Steve Hammond (cc)
Photo by: Steve Hammond (cc)

People hide behind excuses like this. They don’t want to test the boundaries. Whether it is being too honest, or giving too much information. So the things they do say aren’t what they really wanted to.

Holden doesn’t mean what he says because most of the time he is lying to someone or afraid to face them, like his parents.

After reading “Do people really mean what they say” by M. Farouk Radwan I realized another character trait Holden has that contributes to this. His insecurity.

“When i help people build their self confidence i usually point their attention to how they sometimes see reality incorrectly because of perception errors. Its so common for a person who has low self esteem to interpret people’s reactions incorrectly and assume they have other meanings” (Radwan).

Holden is really concerned with what other people think of him for example caring that he was wearing Pajamas in public. This then translates into what he says to others.

“The words people say might not have any connection to reality and they might just be saying them to feel good about themselves” (Radwan).

Photo by: Leland Francisco (cc)
Photo by: Leland Francisco (cc)

Holden is talking to all these people: roommates, Nuns, prostitutes, kids, Sally, Mr. Antolini, and many more so that he could connect with someone and therefore no longer feel alone and lost.

My theory is even translated into society. Even with people you know, if asked if “you are okay” most will say a simple “yes”. However, they could be having the worst day of their lives. When people ask how someone looks we are taught to give the “proper” response so that is what we do.

When you don’t say what you mean you are telling little white lies. Reading “Challenge Three: How to Express Yourself: More Clearly and Completely” by Dennis Rivers, I was given an even more different perspective.

“[Use] a wide range of   “I-statements.”  You are likely to get more of your listener’s empathy if you express more of what you are seeing and hearing, feeling, interpreting, wanting, and envisioning” (Dennis Rivers).

I feel like Holden did a good job of expressing himself to his audience, always telling us what he was thinking. However he didn’t know how to express himself to other characters in the novel.

Expressing oneself can be difficult. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say can make you a more sincere person and therefore a person other people want to be around. Holden could have used this lesson and I’m sure we can too.



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