One of the keys to effective communication is intelligibility.

What is intelligibility?

Simply put, how intelligible you are to others – how easy it is for others to make sense of you.


A lot of people isolate themselves because they feel they can’t express themselves without revealing themselves to be weird, nasty or judgmental.  Instead of being who they are, they pretend to be someone else, or simply hold back, refusing to engage authentically with others.

This is a shame, because when people know how weird, nasty and judgmental you are, they’ll like you a lot more – especially if they can make sense of why you’re that way.

If you say, ‘Don’t do it like that, do it like this’ all the time, you’re likely to upset people.  But if you say, ‘I’m really sorry, I’m a bit of a control freak.  What can I say, I grew up in a home that was constantly on the brink of chaos, and it’s left an indelible mark on me?’ and then you say, ‘Don’t do it like that, do it like this’ all the time, people get it.  Your control freakery has become intelligible to them, and they’re willing to cut you some slack. (They still may not like it, and hopefully you’ll change over time, but at least they feel they’re in a relationship with a real person.)

So if you find yourself alienated from others, either because you’re pretending to be someone you’re not or you’re simply not engaging socially, figure out what’s going on, and then communicate that to others.

You’ll be surprised at how receptive people are to the real you, once you make yourself intelligible.

I’m a new member of the Toronto Zen Center.

This is the continuation of a long-standing interest in Buddhism, both as a philosophy and a practice, but it’s the first time I’ve committed to taking that interest seriously enough to consider myself, maybe, a Buddhist.

One of the things that has long resonated with me in Buddhist philosophy is the idea of a fluid identity, or what is commonly, but maybe inaccurately, called ‘no-self’ or ‘not-self’.  (There are a bunch of other terms that seem to describe the same thing too – ‘decentered subjectivity’ being one of my favourites).

In this Teisho (a Buddhist ‘sermon’ if you will), given at the San Francisco Zen Center, Gil Fronsdale presents a beautiful metaphor for thinking about self and no-self.

The self, he suggests, is like a ball being pushed around a concave drum with a hole at the centre.  So long as you are pushing the ball, it has enough momentum to never fall down the hole.  But as soon as the ball is simply left to its own devices, it slows down and eventually falls through the hole at the centre of the drum.

Fronsdale says the self is like that ball.  So long as you’re pushing it around, with thoughts like ‘I’m smart,’ ‘I’m dumb’ – maybe even ‘I’m a Buddhist’ – you’re propping up the self, preventing it from falling down the hole.

But if you let go of those thoughts, stilling the discursive mind through meditation, fixed ideas of the self fall away, and you discover your essential nature – no-self.

That doesn’t mean you no longer function as a self in the world – it simply means you don’t take that self as anything other than a construction.  As such you’re in a position to put it on and take it off, like a piece of clothing, maintaining a critical distance from it instead of identifying with it.

I did the Clifton Strengthsfinder assessment the other day and here are the results.

If you’re interested in finding out what your top 5 strengths are you can do the test here.

Even though I’ve done the Myers Briggs and Pearson Strong Inventory before I found this assessment added something significant to my understanding of myself.  And although I missed the prescriptiveness of the Myers Briggs, which tells you which career paths you’re best suited to, I liked the rich descriptions of characteristic ways of being-in-the-world that this test delivers.  It leaves you open to decide for yourself what career you’re best suited to, given your particular strengths.

If you want to know more about the test, including all the possible strengths it tests for, you can buy Tom Rath’s StrengthsFinder 2.0 here.