In communication, it is easy to be misunderstood, especially not by face-to-face. That’s why as a ESL speaker, I’d like to double check that I understand others.

There is a clear example from Stephen Covey’s book “The 8th Habit: from Effectiveness to Greatness” (pp.200-201) 

A farmer went into his attorney’s office wanting to file for divorce from his wife. The attorney asked, “may I help you?” to which the farmer replied, “Yeah, I want to get one of those dayvorces.”

The attorney said, “Well, do you have any grounds?” and the farmer said, “Yeah, I got about 140 acres.”

The attorney said, “No, you don’t understand,. Do you have a case?” and the farmer replied, “No, I don’t have a Case, but I have a John Deere.”

And the attorney said, “No, you really don’t understand. I mean do you have a grudge?” And the farmer replied to that, “Yeah, I got a grudge. That’s where I park my John Deere.”

The attorney, still trying, asked, “No, sir, I mean do you have a suit?” The farmer replied, “Yes, sir, I got a suit. I wear it to church on Sunday.”

The exasperated and frustrated attorney said, “Well, sir, does your wife beat you up or anything?” The farmer replied, “No, sir. We both get up about 4:30.”

Finally, the attorney says, “Okay. Let me put it this way. WHY DO YOU WANT A DIVORCE?” And the farmer says, “Well, I can never have a meaningful conversation with her.”


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