Spoken words are the expressed formulation of the speaker’s thoughts. Those fortunate to be gifted with the skill to do so precisely have a greater likelihood of meaningful conversation. Spoken words stimulate a response on the part of the listener who, hopefully, is objective enough to apprehend the speaker’s meaning and intention. As noted previously (Blog#81), the optimum interaction is one in which all participants are consistently dedicated to the identical subject.
Ethically and solicitously, the speaker should earnestly strive to maintain an awareness and sensitivity to the likely effect of his words upon the other party and not thoughtlessly speak merely to discharge the personal energy of a presenting thought.
Ideally therefore, the parties would adhere to the same subject and context and maintain a conversation in the nature of a spontaneous exchange of thoughts on a common subject; this is all too often not the case. Too many conversations take place between parties who pay little, or no attention, to the specific subject and engage in the formal “dance” of a conversation as occurs in the automatic exchange of a handshake.
There are particular instances in which the choice of vocabulary has the potential to evoke an emotional response on another, in contrast to those exchanged in meaningless banter.
In this brief note, we specifically exclude the subject of verbal exchange in the romantic context. In any case, most participants, particularly of the female gender, it seems, are well schooled in the impactful significance of such words as, “love,” “commitment,” “relationship,” “intended,” and the like. Most of such words are accorded an exalted status, above mere vocabulary, and enjoy the experienced status of a professionally competent diagnosis of the presenting facts.
In other contexts, the use of certain words have profound impact, examples are,” love,” “ hate,” “fear,” “peace,” ”friend,” “trouble,” and many, many more. We would however, limit the scope of this note to two words, “probability” and “possibility.” These concern distinctly different predictive words which when used appropriately, summon markedly different reactions.
“Probability,” in general, means likely to occur or is expected, i.e., a frequently experienced result. It is a mildly qualified expression concerned with empirical experience, percentage outcome, deductive or inductive reason. It is because it is empirical, and therefore, measurable, that there exists an entire discipline in mathematics devoted to the calculation of probable outcomes; the algebraic calculation of probability results in a statement of the percentage likelihood of occurrence of the selected event or result.
“Possibility,” by contrast, connotes the occasional chance of occurrence (as opposed to its expectation, as in “probability). It is more ethereal and theoretical, a prospect which in the future may attain realization. It is not predictive in the same way as probability and therefore not readily capable of calculation. The possibility that an asteroid may collide with our planet is a matter of some scientific interest; a probability of such occurrence would justify global panic. Significantly, in the area of medical illness, the predictability, or probability of full recovery would evoke a feeling of relief; a statement of the possibility of recovery would encourage concern. In all factually important instances of any kind, the competent observer should be scrupulously assiduous in the selection of the appropriate description of the degree of realistic expectation.
We would offer some comments regarding the appropriate and sensitive use of these two expectancy words in the hope that they may be of some interest:
1. In matters of illness or temporary disability, if possible and accurate, speak in the context of predictability or possibility. A demonstration of advance knowledge by the recitation of remote possibilities may cause unnecessary anxiety. That an individual might conceivably, pull out a nose hair, resulting in a fatal toxicity, is somewhat possible, but not at all probable.
2. Words connoting probability are preferable with regard to the initiation of new business ventures. The mere “possibility” of success would seem remote and not encouraging.
3. The probability that she (he) loves me back is a far better prospect than such possibility.
4. In general, the possibility of failure should not inhibit the new entrepreneur, the start of a scientific inquiry or an aspiration for the love of another person.
There are, indeed, many possibilities whose contemplation are positive and hopeful; the possibility of enduring world peace, the possibility of finding a unified cure for cancer, the possibility of real and lasting brotherhood, the possibility of a clean and green planet. May we dare to hope that these possibilities evolve into probabilities and eventually to the reality?

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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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