Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's a Communication Thing

There is a saying that the most elusive thing about communication is the illusion that it occurred - how true that is. Communication is key. Communication is the gateway to life. Every living creature big or small, single or multi-organism, communicates with others of its kind and with the world around it. Without communication it would die. In an age of instant everything, a new fear is an age-old fear - being utterly cutoff from society and communication with others. Don't you feel a twinge of anxiety when you leave your cell phone at home? Never mind the fact that you are most likely near a land line phone and computer all day. You still feel cut off from everyone without your communication tool.

And why are talk shows and counseling so appealing and popular? It's about communication. Getting your feelings and opinions heard by others and validated. We all want to be heard. We all crave communication amongst ourselves. Be honest - do you speak to your plants? Your pets? The inanimate objects in your house? Your car? The need to be heard and make our point known overrides that very basic intellect of knowing those things can't answer back. We simply want to be heard - to communicate with something around us.

I feel those of us who are raising children in this age of instant communication have done them a disservice by embracing the very technology that is quickly becoming an oxymoron. We have instant access to anything and everything but we have lost the art of true communication. Truly hearing and being heard is not about sound bites or text messages, IM's or Facebook posts or Twitter feeds. We teach our children to be independent, to go after what they want, to not let the world get in their way, to embrace the new technologies that will make their lives simpler. But by expanding our capacity to multi-task we have done away with quality time and basic communication skills that are vital if our children are to accomplish all this.

We must understand that people need to be heard. In order for us to live amongst the masses, communicating with each other on a personal level is a need that should be first and foremost. We must unlearn what we have learned and truly communicate with those around us. To get back to this deeper level, each person must be aware of the feelings of others. Our surroundings and experiences as we grow shape us and influence our thought processes. One person's moment of silence in deep thought about what to have for dinner may be misinterpreted as a non-answer to a direct question which leads to feelings of being ignored or dismissed. This will then lead to hurt feelings as each then tries to explain. Emotions run hot, words are uttered in anger and frustration. All this from a simply misunderstood moment because of a failure to communicate with each other on a basic level. One should have said, "hold on a moment and let me think." Or in the absence of that, one should have asked, "are you thinking about dinner or did you not hear me ask?"

Simple words spoken to convey a feeling or thought process. Simple awareness of the feelings of those around you. Simple questions to derail a misundertanding. It's not rocket science. It's a basic tool that we should always carry with us - just like our cell phone.

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