Have you ever been in a conversation with someone–totally feeling like you’re effectively communicating–only to find out you were never on the same page? This happens to me a lot. In my own home. With my favorite people.
I don’t know why, either, because I am an excellent communicator. I know exactly what I am trying to say, and I do a fantastic job of conveying that message to my audience. Well, except for the one time I told my daughter, Gracie, to put the box of remaining ice cream bars in the garage fridge after she got one. And she obeyed. Actually, that was more her fault than mine. Everyone knows that ice cream bars are best kept in the freezer. Never mind that she was six years old…and that she had just spent her own money on the ice cream. She should have known better. (Interestingly, when she pulled that box out of the fridge the next day, all of the little drumstick-type bars were still perfectly wrapped as though they still held ice cream. It was a cruel optical illusion for a six-year-old.)
Anyway, misunderstandings get on my nerves. They are inconvenient, frustrating and a complete waste of time. They are also a glaring reminder of my imperfections (when it can, indeed, be proven that I am the one who has mis-communicated– no proof, no guilt). Misunderstandings can also create hard feelings at times, which makes effective communication even more difficult. We haul too much baggage from past conversations into present communications, which makes emotions run high. Sharp words are flung like rocks as thick walls are built even thicker around aching hearts.
As long as we are human (which will pretty much run the span of our lifetime, I guess), we will mis-communicate and we will misunderstand. It’s inevitable. However, there are a few things we can do to keep these occurrences at a minimum. We can give the speaker our full attention by turning off the TV, closing our screens or silencing our ringers. We can stop folding laundry, talking to other people or picking up toys and make eye contact with whomever is speaking. These are simple signs of respect. I have learned to repeat much of what my husband says to me in a “re-cap” kind of style so that I know I understand what he is trying to communicate. This doesn’t eliminate our mis-communications, but it makes both of us more aware of what is being said. I have even gone so far as to write down whatever I have asked the kids to do so that they can actually SEE what I have asked of them. (This also provides valuable proof that I am not wrong.)
I guess I should make one more point. Effective communication is not about being right or wrong. It’s about fostering mutual respect, showing love and living with integrity. It’s about knowing what is important to share and when it is crucial to forgive. It’s about living together in a way that is mutually beneficial–a way that honors those around us by giving out of the abundance or our attention and sharing out of the abundance of our hearts.