I'm a firm believer that just about every single problem, challenge, frustration or source of irritatation stems, in SOME way, from a breakdown of some kind in communication. I've said for a number of years now that, if I ever made it to graduate school, I'd want to do my thesis on that particular subject because there's such a wealth of continually supplied evidence to back up my claim! My thoughts headed in that direction after I started to take pause in my own life when roadblocks of whatever kind would hit. I could always trace the origination of the problem back to a lack of communication or a miscommunication of some kind.
Yesterday, I talked about how relationships are golden (they are the gems of life, afterall!) but they can be very difficult at times. We have to live with a spirit of perseverence to continue with relationships successfully. It probably seems obvious that communication is a crucial element of that relational mainenance but I think, even grasping that basic premise, we routinely fall short of making EFFECTIVE communication happen? Why? I think that maybe the reasons are varied for different people and that there are several factors going on for each of us. This post is just meant to get us all thinking...not meant to judge but to offer up some observations and encourage folks to take part in discussion here or quiet reflection and a personal quest for good communication.
So, my two cents worth of observations:
~Communication is wonky because the basic idea of it (discourse of some kind with another person) is uncomfortable for people. Sometimes it's a matter of shyness (and you often feel better once you break the ice and just get the communication GOING); sometimes it's more an issue of being nervous about what the other person will say or do in response to the subject matter you wish to discuss with them.
~We're living in such an exciting technological era with so many avenues of communication available at our fingertips. We've got landlines, cellphones, texting, emailing, instant messaging and wallposting on social networks available (oh! and don't forget my beloved 'snail mail)! I LOVE the potential that all of these tools offer us for staying in touch with one another. For example, numerous fellow classmates and I reconnected with eachother on Facebook approximately a year before our last reunion. We spent time on FB getting reacquainted with eachother and catching up on both old times and new so that, by the time we got together for our reunion, the typical ice was already broken and we all had a casual, relaxed, terrific time! I'm also able to post pictures to share with family and friends from across the country--such a great way of staying plugged into the lives of loved ones. I still think that the benefits far outweigh the challenges but there are some points to consider:
Though I LOVE the fact that texting is such a convenient way to get a message to somebody (I'm often not available to take/make calls during my workday and, conversely, I don't want to be ringing people into the later evening hours and disrupting their nighttime routines), there is SUCH incredible room for misunderstandings that arise from the nature of texting. Abbreviated spellings and such short/sweet messages leave out the details that are sometimes necessary to understand a person's true meaning, tone, specific details and the like. A person might text a funny but sarcastic remark to another person only to result in the other person taking personal offense because they didn't take it as a joke. Emails bring about the same potential for misunderstood intentions in that they often do not convey true tone and mood of the author to it's recipient. For this reason, I try to write emails, texts and even handwritten letters with 'feeling.' You can probably get a sense of what I mean just by reading my blog posts. With the use of quotation marks, carefully chosen words, certain words in italics or caps to show emphasis, etc you can give your reader a more accurate message.
EVEN with careful thought placed into the creation of your texts and emails, however, there is still such room for misinterpretation. This often just boils down to basic semantics (good ole gifted English! I'll FOREVER remember this lesson that Mrs Dempsey taught us at Edgewater High!): We each have a different memory bank of experiences, different grasps of vocabulary, different thoughts and such and all of that plays a part in how we process information. I might type a Facebook wallpost, for example, with a particular thing in my mind that is completely taken differently by another person! Then that person draws an inaccurate conclusion of what you meant and bases THEIR actions on the inaccurate conclusion. Let me try to think of an example...hmm...ok, this may be a rather weak one but for example's sake let's say that a friend has just become an Avon Rep and asks me (via facebook wallpost) if I would like to order something. I mention to her that I can't at this time because I'm flat broke but would love to someday in the future. Then, a month or so later I receive an awsome Avon gift for Christmas and type up a wallpost about how much I LOVE my new Avon lipgloss! My friend reads it and 'ASSUMES' that I've ordered from somebody else...feels hurt and betrayed and unfriends me. Then, there I am left feeling like a wounded dove myself and not knowing what happened. The uncomfortable part of the scenario could have been avoided had the Avon friend simply asked (and she could've done it in a joking sort of way), "Hey! I thought you were going to buy that lipgloss from me! Your ole buddy!" I then have the chance to explain and all is good with the relationship.
I think we have to keep in mind, too, that when we're communicating in writing we have to add more detail to get an accurate point across. This is opposite, I think, of what usually ends up happening as remember with texting, IM'ing and such we often abbreviate. Sooo much room for misunderstandings! Ok, so we have technology on our sides but it's important to remember good communication skills. Think about what you type and how it COULD be perceived by the receiver...is there a chance they'll take it to mean something else. As I mentioned yesterday, I've found it to be a good clue that you've got some tweaking to do in the communication dept if you find yourself often frustrated that people are misunderstanding you.
~Face to face communication is beauty! What a great opportunity to enjoy the company of friends, relatives, coworkers and to also get to know new people! But miscommunications can even happen when we talk directly with people...especially if it's an uncomfortable subject that's being discussed. People are people. We get defensive if we feel we're being challenged or doubted and we go into that 'defend myself' mode sometimes. There's nothing more FRUSTRATING than trying to hold a conversation with a person...you're making eye contact with them, trying to remain calm and to have an even keel, adult conversation and they kick into major defense mode...they interrupt and keep tossing retorts back to you. They open their eyes wide and nod their head 'yes' as if they're listening to what you have to say but you get a sense that they're just waiting to fire the next retort that's been churning in their minds. It's tempting to keep pushing through that conversation...especially we women. We like to talk things out and get things resolved NOW! Sometimes, though, I think we have to step away for a time if things get too heated. Try to come to an agreement that it'd be a good idea to step away from the conversation right now...maybe to each think about what the other has said so far...and to come back and pick up the discussion at a later time. SOMEtimes we humans get tired or cranky for various reasons and just blow off steam. There's often some validity to the points we try to make but maybe we add a little extra drama just because of the timing....that ole 'wake up in the morning and feel tons better' kind of situation. Your communication thorn may be as simple as that. It may not...it may require more work. All you can do is do YOUR best to communicate honestly, in a way that is respectful of the person you're communicating with and as succinct as you can be. Look for signs that your message might have been misinterpreted and don't be afraid to speak up in a kindly way to ask for clarification.
I think we also need to free with our apologies if we realize that we were in error with our communicating and not take it as a personal afront. We get so uptight sometimes! I have such HUGE respect for people with humility. I can think of a dozen people right off the top of my head (I work with many of them!) who are so very gracious and who readily offer up an, "Omgosh, I'm so sorry! What I should have said was...." blah blah blah. They keep recognize signs that there was a misunderstanding and don't pass the buck or place blame but own up to it and apologize then clarify! Gosh I love that! So many folks just get so defensive and short-tempered if they've miscommunicated...OR they have that same reaction when taking somebody ELSE's comment the wrong way and harbor a grudge as opposed to trying to clarify and come to a more accurate understanding.
I guess fear really seems to be an underlying factor in a lot of miscommunications. We're afraid of what could happen. We're afraid of being wrong. We're afraid of being left out. Let us all remember that we are HUMAN and, again, are not perfect. But let us LEARN from our mistakes. If a pattern is recurring and no attempt is made to change then THAT can be a whole different issue all together (maybe meat for tomorrow's blog!) but, for those of us who yearn for authentic relationships of all kinds with others let us remember to also strive for effective communication. I'm convinced that it's a long learning process. Perhaps it's one that will never come to full closure. But the continual attempt to communicate WELL with others and to clarify misunderstandings and also not be ashamed, afraid or hesitant to admit to and apologize for a mistake will be yet another way you can demonstrate to others your level of care for them AND bring a joy and authenticity to your life.
Peace and joy~