Recently, I listened to a podcast in which the guest brought to the host’s attention the wish to shift how we describe our time with others. For the life of me I cannot remember the show or the guest, but it caught my ear immediately.
Sharing time with others versus Spending time with others.
When followed by an object (in this case “time”), share and spend are both transitive verbs. What did you share? What did you spend? Let’s take a look at the connotations derived from each of the handful of definitions.
share (v) — to partake of, use, experience, occupy, or enjoy with others; to have in common; to grant or give a share in
spend (v) — to use up or pay out; exhaust, wear out; to cause or permit to elapse; give up, sacrifice
Sharing offers at the very minimal, a neutral connotation, but leaning well into the positive. Spending reveals a depletion, a loss of, a giving up, and thus a negative connotation more generally.
The verbs we choose matter. Whether those verbs are only bounced around in our minds as we think through anything going on in our lives – how we are feeling, what we are doing, etc., or actually verbalized with others, the more precisely the verb choice, the more clearly we communicate not only to others, but to ourselves.
“If the nails are weak, your house will collapse. If your verbs are weak and your syntax is rickety, your sentences will fall apart.” —William Zinsser, On Writing Well
Spending most commonly concretely references monetary exchanges for gain of a desired “something”. In other words, something is given that was hard worked for; we do not necessarily want to give it up, but knowing we must in order to acquire the desired object/experience/etc., we do so as the priorities of the moment come into play.
In an economic marketplace, the immediate exchange is one party presenting something they want to or have created with the intention of selling, while the receiver must give something of value to them for the item/experience purchases. (Understandably, there are always unique circumstances or situations in which someone is selling something they want to keep, but for the sake of today’s post, the idea of a business creating something to sell thus there is less attachment is on the item/experience than the receiver has placed upon it.)
Let’s shift to the verb phrase sharing time. An equal exchange in which both parties give and receive, participate and engage, step forward and offer their time and attention and so long as it is equally ping-ponged, continue the sharing of time until a boundary of some sort – time, schedule, etc. – is reached.
There are many words that are commonly used, yet inaccurately so, without examination of why we actually say the word we’re saying. For example, “Hey guys!” when the room is not entirely full of men or boys. (I personally have presented this language choice to my students and have told them this is my practice now, to eradicate this word “guys” to reflect awareness of the entire room. Similarly, years ago, removing “like” from my speech was a task. It wasn’t easy, but eventually it became habitual.) The shift requires conscious speaking, paying full attention to the words we utter and to whom we are speaking, but the good news, once the speech-pattern is broken and adjusted, the new practice can become habituated as well.
Words matter. How we say them, our tone, matters as well, but it first begins with the words we choose.
Please know, I don’t think that by saying “spend” rather than “share” I will hurt someone’s feelings as opposed to other wrong word choices; however, perhaps it is a shift in our own minds about who and how we
spend share our time in our daily lives.
While some will make the argument, and an absolutely valid one, that we are exchanging our time for the activities and people we choose to be with as time is finite and a valuable resource therefore “spending” fits the definition of what we are doing. True, but when it comes to relationships, intimate, non-work relationships, when we consciously choose to share time with others, we are reminding ourselves to be fully present, to be conscious of how we engage and how we are treated, as well as how we treat those with whom we are engaging.
Sharing conveys a deepening. Not only a respect for the individual(s) you are with, but a respect for yourself as you are choosing to be present with that particular person or at that particular event.
Now, more intensely for so many of us, our relationships are being tested and stretched, but this time we find ourselves in also provides us with the opportunity to strengthen how we share time together, strengthen how we communicate with each other and become more clear-eyed about with whom we want to share our time.
Today’s post has been a diction shift I have been pondering this summer, and I wanted to share it with you today because perhaps you too are examining your relationships and contemplating how some are working well and thriving during this time and others are faltering. Perhaps there are other words or phrases that do not fully encapsulate what is taking place. Sometimes it really can begin with choosing the right word. Perhaps doing so will open a door or a window that appeared to be sealed shut. Perhaps the wrong tool (in this case our vocabulary) was being used and the right one was sitting in the toolbox just waiting to be noticed and put to work.
Wishing you a wonderful first day of this last full week of August. Thank you for stopping by.