Friday, March 13, 2009 by Dave Blum

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote about “decoding” situations.  Now what does that mean?

According to, “to decode” is:

1. to translate (data or a message) from a code into the original language or form.

2. to extract meaning from (spoken or written symbols).

When confronted with a scavenger hunt list, the decoding is pretty straight forward.  Treasure hunt clues are often written in Morse Code, Braille, Semaphore, Binary, Sign Language, Marine Signal Flags…just to name a few of the most popular “languages”.  Your task when playing on scavenger hunts is to “translate” the encrypted data into a comprehensible message (most often in English).

In social interactions, the “decoding” is a little trickier.  Everyone has their own internal language, their own syntax and vocabulary.  In a sense, everyone is a cipher.  And in the case of people, there’s no manual for you to consult, no code book, no dictionary.  You either have to make a study of those closest to you (creating your own “book”), OR you need to ask each particular person to explain their meaning…to decode themselves.

So here’s my recommendation:

The next time your spouse, your kid, your co-worker–says something that makes you angry, sad or confused, rather than snapping at them, use the following phrase:

“Can you help me decode what just went on there?”

More often than not, they’ll give you a perfectly reasonable (to them) explanation for their actions.  Do this enough times with a person, and you’ll be on your way to “cracking their code”.