You must work at communicating…

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”  (Cool Hand Luke) – seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I remember seeing the Paul Newman movie when it was released and how jarring thePaul Newman ending was, when the jail warden grabbed the gun and shot and killed Newman’s character. Perhaps in today’s world of seemingly weekly police shootings it would not have been so unexpected.

Sometimes we worry if anyone hears what we are saying. Much of the time that may not be the issue. The real issue is do they understand what we are saying…are we communicating. In the common vernacular the phrase “you know” is used as both a statement and a question and is meant somehow to be a shortcut to understanding. But what if the other party doesn’t know? What if they have no life experience basis for knowing? What if they come from a different culture, where the things that we know are not common knowledge or experiences? How much are you communicating when you use the phrase, “you know?”

Jack made the point also that communications is a critical part of any relationship, divorceespecially those within a marriage and a family. A failure to communicate is probably the root cause of the breakup most marriages that end in divorce. I’ve written here in the past about the need to have a deeper level of relationship than just the sexual attraction in any marriage and that level is only reached through communications, through sharing and understanding each other’s beliefs, dreams, hopes, and interests openly. It is really a cop-out when one partner says to the other, “Well you should know what I want, I shouldn’t have to tell you.” In fact neither of you will ever just figure things out if you don’t communicate and share with each other – what do you want, what would make you happy, what can I do for you and you for me. It is the lowering of the shields and the baring of the souls to one another through communications that builds the bounds that keep marriages together.

The same rules apply to life in general. If you don’t communicate what you want in life, don’t expect others to be able to figure tit out and give those things to you. At work there may be formal reviews or just informal times with the boss in which you can express your ambitions and ask for his/her help to achieve them. That communications should be a two way learning experience, with you finding out what you need to improve or do and the bossexplaining finding out your ambitions and your willingness to work to achieve them. It also helps you clarify your goals when you have to verbalize them in communications with others.

In any form of communications there is also the task of making sure that you have properly received, interpreted and understand the message or information. Your ability to internalize what has been communicated to you is greatly influenced by your point of view and your background. There is an old saw “seeing is believing”. I wrote recently about people “seeing” things differently in my post “I can see clearly now”. Do you think that blacks and whites see two different realities when they see the dash cam videos that are almost a nightly occurrence on the news.

It is up to each of us to take the time and put in the work needed to communicate to others and to understand what they are trying to communicate to us. For some of us that may mean just shutting up, so that that other party can get a word in edgewise. You are not communicating is you are doing all of the talking. For others the challenge may be to find the right words to express their feelings and desires, without appearing to be selfish or clingingself-centered. It is OK to tell that overly attentive partner that you need some “alone time.” We all need some time to ourselves, times of silence and contemplation. Often it is the need of the partner for constant assurances and attention that drive us apart. Their “clinging” is a sign of insecurity that needs to be discussed in an open honest communication with them.

I’ve posted a couple of times here on the topic of the benefits of openly discussing your issues with someone that you can trust, one such post was titled “Can we talk”, which discussed the role of a friend in providing a listening post for you to communicate your issues and your role to return the favor for them. All of these posts about communications end up with the same advice- you have to work at it to make it happen and to benefit from it. Working at it means that you have to be cognizant of your own needs and receptive to understanding the needs of others. Don’t go to your grave with the epitaph “I wish you had told me…” engraved on your tombstone.

Communicate; ask and tell; work at it. Don’t let your life become a failure to communicate.

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