Technology is an amazing thing. It has allow us ways of communicating that are un-paralleled in history. Unfortunately, not many of us have updated our own internal software. Example A: I got a text the other day…”Hey this is P. How’s it going? What was you up to this week?” Out of context, it would not have been odd at all. In context, this was from a guy I went on a few dates with, sent him a text saying, “Hi, hope you’re week is going well” and received this response three (3) months later. When I mentioned that his response was a bit delayed, he said, “I’ve been busy.” Obviously.
Not only was this guy completely oblivious to an appropriate response time, he was unable to articulate his intentions and completely unable to understand the appropriate uses of “was” and “were” in sentences. Even when someone is articulate and can make well formed sentences, it still doesn’t mean that they have great communication skills. It is especially difficult when personal feelings get involved. Example B:
I said in an email to a person with whom my relationship was a bit precarious : I was wondering if you might like to go to SAM and see the Asian art exhibit with me. I realize our coffee meeting was a bit strained at times. That is bound to be the case for now, I think. I didn’t want to talk about anything emotional the other day but I know that it is what makes things a little tense. I hope we can be more open with each other.
He gave one reply to two separate emails : I’m not sure what you’re talking about (in this or other emails), but the conversation wasn’t strained on my end. In fact, I don’t remember this bit below being strained at all so whatever it was you don’t need to worry about me having taken offense to anything….
Ok, not bad. Very considerate. But doesn’t this beg the question, “Oh, were there specific emotional things that made you feel strain?” Wouldn’t that be the logical thing to ask? Well, I could over look that …then came the second paragraph…
Anyway, I’ve had some other personal issues come up recently. I lost my last remaining grandmother a few days ago and even though I wasn’t very close to her I’m dealing with some family issues so that’s left me busy. I may even have to make a short trip home. So I can’t plan any activity in the near future.
Now, I knew this was not a lie in the strictest sense, but I knew it wasn’t entirely true either. After all, this is a man who once told a waitress he was allergic to Broccoli because he thought it would save him the trouble of explaining that he really just didn’t like it. Both of these were like lacy little excuse for nighties from Lover’s Package – tacky and see-through. Do you think he ever got back to me about going? No. I went with a friend who has good communication skills.
Do people really think that because they are not looking you in the eye it’s okay to make these completely pitiful excuses? Does email, text or IM somehow lead us to believe that writing skills and communication skills are the same things? Putting something in a microwave does not make you a good cook, using spell check does not make you a good speller and no type or quantity of virtual contact is going to make you a good communicator. Virtual reality is virtually useless unless you actually know what to do with it.
That conversation could have gone something like this:
Guy: I‘m trying to maintain calm but I’m really having problems with…(whatever it is, be honest with yourself man!)…I could use my grandmother’s death as an excuse to decline so I can fantasize that I am not hurting your feelings any more than necessary while at the same time avoiding all personal discomfort myself, but that would be immature of me. Frankly, I’m just not very good at this communication stuff. How about if I email you in a week and let you know where I’m at?
me: Sorry to hear about your grandmother. I completely understand if you can’t make plans for the immediate future. I also understand ….(repeat other persons concerns here to make sure you really do understand)…. Thanks for your kind honesty. On the contrary, what great communication skills you have gained.
Guy: Thanks. I picked up a book on communication skills because I have realized that it is an art. It occurred to me that my lack of skills causes more drama than necessary, has undermined relationships that have been otherwise positive in my life, and that critique, blame, see-through excuses don’t really serve me or anyone else well. I have also realized that unless I have good skills I will not be able to interact well with others who do too.
Me: DAMN! That’s really mature of you! I appreciate you giving me a firm time frame on further communication, that shows a lot of respect for me. I could add a loosely veiled, pressuring sentence here, but that would not be very mindful of your feelings. I picked up a book on mindfulness, because I have realized that a lack of it weakens my communication skills and causes unintended hurt to others. Please send my sympathies to your family.
Maybe that is stretching a bit much, but the point is that it’s really not hard folks. Look, here are the basic:
- Listen to the other person and, if necessary, rephrase what you heard to make sure you got it right.
- Show respect, be mindful, don’t lie.
- If there is a problem don’t place blame, try thinking outside the box for new solutions.
- Don’t assume someone’s intentions.
- Invest in the process of communication, not in the specifics of the outcome.
- Ask and offer.
- Be clear with your feelings and intentions and repeat if necessary.
- Don’t expect people to magically understand you.
Remember that communication is like a teeter-totter, it takes two people. If you are not doing your part it makes it very hard for the other person to do theirs and it can suck all the fun right out of it.
I have other friends who can communicate quite well and it has nothing to do with their age, their writing skills or the types of relationships we share. Luckily, like cooking, communication is a skill that any mindful person can learn and continue to build on throughout their lives.
Caprese Salad (GF, VG)
- Fresh, organic tomatoes
- Balsalmic Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- Fresh Mozzarella
- Fresh Basil
- Salt and Pepper
Slice your tomatoes and Mozzarella and lay them out on a plate. Tear up the basil and put on enough so that you get a bit with each bite. Drizzle on the Balsalmic Vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. You can also add a little pesto on top of this if you are a big basil fan.