On Communication

Posted on September 29th, 2011

We all think we do it, and yet, there isn’t much of it. Communication makes life go smoothly, and we all know that without it, every worthwhile intention is defeated, nothing useful gets accomplished, and everything rolling will soon grind to a halt. Effective communication makes all relationships work. Communication that is blocked or shut down is the reason relationships don’t work. Your best relationship is the one in which there’s the best communication; and any relationship you once had, but now don’t, ended because the communication diminished, it fell apart, it disintegrated, it collapsed, or it stopped altogether. It’s that simple, it’s that vital and important, and yet, communication breaks down all the time. So often there’s so much misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Why? Why is there so much discord? And worse, why is it that when there is some failure in communication, more often than not, you’ll argue that it’s the other person’s fault? Why?

Let’s look. How much do you really know about communication? How much of it do you think is an art, and how much do you believe is a science? Did you study it in school, or did you just sort of “pick it up”? Where and how did you learn what you know, and from whom? Did someone teach you or did you learn mostly by imitation?

Think for a minute about the people who taught you. Who were your models, and how effectively did they communicate? Have you taken many communication courses or workshops outside of school? If you’re like most people, you probably took only one or two basic courses in school. You know – the ones in which you stood up at the front of the room and told your class about some things you were interested in or something you read about, or perhaps your assignment was to try to convince the group of something or another. Something like that, right?

If you’re like most people, you were more frightened than you’d probably care to admit. You prayed, came up to the front of the room maybe three or four times in the course of that semester – and with every part of your body shaking in terror, you made your speech and couldn’t wait to sit down. You took a deep breath when it was over, and you were amazed and truly grateful that you didn’t pass out. And like most people – if you tell the truth about it – if you were asked to do the same thing today, you’d still be pretty terrified of doing it. For some, talking to more than one other person constitutes “public speaking,” and they get a little nervous. Maybe even more than just a little.

So this important, but mostly vague and nebulous thing – communication – is one of the most critical components of living effectively, productively, and harmoniously. Without it, life breaks down, and greatness becomes absolutely and totally unattainable. And communication is something you know very little about.

Instead of communicating, you tell, you debate, you bicker, you dispute, and you argue. You try to convince. You lobby. You battle. You insist that you are right, either out loud or under your breath, and upon any sign of attack, either real or imagined, you get defensive. To you, conflict resolution is an interesting theory, but in your mind, it’s synonymous with competition. Sometimes conflict resolution feels more like war, given how badly you want to win.

The notions of peace, harmony, and accord become so much more difficult to attain than they need to be, because more often than not, instead of listening and aggressively paying concentrated attention to the other person, you’re busy composing the next piece of your argument. You fight, you struggle, you demand to be understood, and you hardly ever seek to truly understand. You assume, with your infinite wisdom, that you already understand, quick-study that you are; so, you spend very little time actively attending, listening, and learning. You make your life so much more difficult than it needs to be.