Day 210: Communication Errors

July 28th, 2010

“A writer writes not because he is educated but because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood.”   -Leo Rosten

Communication is the essence and primary vehicle for most everything in life. Everyone does it all the time, with and without agreed upon signals, words, expressions. Communication errors are a natural outcome of all of the many forms of communicating going on continuously. We all have our own personal blend of communication errors that we commit, usually without recognition, as they are deeply ingrained in our way being. They impact all our relationships in ways that run deep and oddly are invisible to us.

The new CEO, talks to me frequently about speaking from multiple voices by understanding your audience. I am forced to recognize how rarely I consider the perception of others in my communications. I am too hungry to make my point, I miss the chance to listen for what is behind the words, to hear and be moved by someone else’s feelings and experience in ways that I couldn’t predict.

Thousands of years ago, Epictetus, a greek philosopher said: “First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.” It is embarrassing how often I think I know what I am saying, but don’t actually. Our language is so familiar to us,  and our own meaning is so deeply imbedded in us, that we don’t think of the meaning of what we say. When I was learning French years ago and I would translate back and forth between languages,  I spent a lot of time considering the words and meaning I was trying to convey. Some French expressions don’t really exist in English, or have three meanings rolled into one.

I grew up in a yelling house, where my father’s normal range was loud to bellowing. The television was always on loud, I played my stereo at the full strength of the small speaker set to drown out the noise. Maybe I am slightly hard of hearing, because I rarely speak quietly. I often have to have things repeated when they are spoken quietly, as though it is a sound level my brain can’t fully register. It has long been a problem between my husband and I who is introspective and needs silence. I am noisy apparently or at least a stranger to quietness in my speech, my thoughts and my emotions.

This combination of communication errors is probably the basis of my urge to write. I long to be understood, if by no one more than myself. When I write I am listening deeply, truly interested in the space behind the words, trying to make sense of the beautiful and unpredictable, painful and authentic, fleeting and timeless. In my writing, I can master my communication errors;  I wonder what it will take to expand that skill base to my spoken words.

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