Head's up - I'm going to get a little nerdy on my own process here for a bit, but hang in there with me, okay?
Lately I keep finding myself using the word "parse" when I meet with clients and colleagues.
And I like it.
It usually goes down something like this - we're talking, they casually say something, but unlike the rest of the conversation we've been having, this last thing has put a blip on my radar and seems to call out for a more-than-casual examination. Maybe a much more than casual examination. So I say something like "Let's parse that" and suddenly we're creating a whole new juicy turn in the discussion.
I live for moments like these.
There is simply something powerful about the act of calling attention to an idea or utterance that the other person wasn't even remotely expecting would ever be under scrutiny. It's usually something that's flying far down below their own radar, yet intrinsic to their point of view (and sometimes in the way of it).
Stepping into this parsing exercise the person speaking is instantly bumped out of the flow of their default modes of thinking, which have been propelling the conversation, and compelled to examine what they are saying at a new level. The energy shifts. The body language shifts. We are now into a mode of higher engagement. Yet, there is still something non-threatening about parsing - it is an invitation to think and examine, without directly calling into question the thought being made. It doesn't trigger the same defensiveness as saying "I think you are on the wrong track there...", or "here's where you're mistaken."
Parsing is an invitation to examine together the meaning of a thought through exploration of the component parts, not a full-frontal attack on underlying (and often deeply-set) beliefs.
This call to parse things could get annoying really fast if it were just used as a conversational ploy, but it is more than that. It can be a useful way to comfortably identify limiting beliefs and break through the facades that can mask all sorts of misleading assumptions. And it is a two-way safety valve - since we parse the thought together, my own assumptions are revealed in counterpoint to the client's. We collaborate in this investigation, and that gives us a built-in check and balance to prevent my own "theories" and "shoulds" from clouding the client's discovery process.
Love is in the air.
You see? I got a little nerdy up there, didn't I? So let's have some fun now and parse this sentence: "I love you." Well, at least, let's first look at some questions that might demonstrate this parsing process...
Let's start with "you". Who are you? Where do you come from? What do I know about you? How many of you are there? Am I including in "you" some who aren't reading these words?
Next, let's explore "I". Well, I'm the narrator, but who am I? In what context do I provide value? What do you assume of me? Where am I? (I ask that one a lot) Am I, "I" the teacher? Or "I" the artist? Or "I" the poet/marketer/brander/dog walker/uncle? etc.
Finally we come to "love". Why "love"? What kind of love? Romantic, fraternal, plutonic, ironic, provocative, sincere, familial? Why not "like" or a plethora of other thoughts like respect, admire, adore, worship, emulate, enjoy, celebrate? Is this love earned? Is it a gift? A crush? Mutual or unrequited?
"I love you" - three simple words, but so many textures and variations to explore - it can be overwhelming. So we look to context to guide us in this parsing. What do know of our context? First, this is a newsletter, so right away we have a lot more grounding to the roles and relationship of "you" and "I". Context also tells us this is February, the month that contains Valentine's Day, so "love" is not a strange subject in February, right? And why do we send a newsletter? And why do you choose to receive one?
To that last question I'll hazard some guesses: I think you want to be delighted... you want to learn, you want a new perspective, and you'd like to see a doodle or few along the way to make you smile - a little bit of things expected and a few surprises. And so you've invited me into your inbox, nerdy doodler that I am. This is where the parsing and the context come together: What I'm leading up to is that I'm grateful for that invitation. It makes me feel special and appreciated, and those are things I want you to feel as well. Because you are special and I want to delight you.
I think I picked the right sentence. It's all in how you parse it.
Now here is a heart-filled doodle that I drew just for you.