Saturday, September 14, 2013

Reaching the Other Side

It's not only language that limits our ability to communicate, but also images we hold in our mind.
Not long ago I was talking with a friend about a book and she said something about the main character that led me to say, "but she was black."  My friend said, "no, she was blond with blue eyes."
So, I went back to the book and sure enough in the early pages there was a description of a blond, blue eyed woman.
I tried to understand why I had pictured the character so different in appearance.  The character was a veteran, worked in law enforcement, lived at the beach....  Why did I not visualize this character close to how the author had described her?  It took me a few days to figure it out.  I once knew a black woman by that name.  To this day when I think of that book, I still picture the main character as a black woman - even though I now know that's not what the author wrote.
I've been in classes where we had to try to describe what we were seeing so that someone else - not seeing it - could draw it.  The results are interesting and it can be a very frustrating experience for both participants.  What would happen if the communicator's instructions were recorded and three very different people were the ones trying to draw the image?
Really understanding one another can be very difficult.  We don't always understand where the break down happens.  If one party hits the communication stop button, all hope of understanding is gone.
We get an image in our our mind that we just cannot get past.  It becomes debilitating.
Recall the last big argument you had with your spouse or someone in your family.  You said or did something - they said or did something - maybe word bombs started flying and probably at some point someone hit the communication stop button.  
Stepping back can be good if we are sorting things out.  But sometimes what happens is that we build a wall.  If communication stops here, the spouse becomes an ex and the family relationship is estranged.
Breaking through that wall is difficult, the larger it's built.  Usually the wall gets a label - something that sounds impossible to overcome.  Reality is that there are few issues that cannot be overcome with a lot of love, understanding and communication.  Recall the last argument with your spouse or family member that you actually worked through.  Didn't it feel great when you reached the other side!

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