You must work at communicating…

March 8, 2016

“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.


Someone needs you; will you be there for them?

March 2, 2015

“We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.”  (Erik Erikson)

There was a long story in the Sunday Detroit Free Press about a local woman, whom repairmen discovered dead in her garage a while back. She had been dead for five years and no one had missed her! The story went into great detail about this woman’s background and how something like that could happen. It wasn’t as if the women had no relatives. She had brothers and sisters living in different parts of the country. And this didn’t happen in some out of the way place; but, rather in a nice neighborhood up in Pontiac, Michigan where homes are fairly close together – she had neighbors. The story recounted that she wasn’t really what we might call a hermit, just a very private person, with no friends locally and with a history of not communicating with her family members, sometimes for years. Sadly, her mummified body was found in her own garage, sitting in her own car. The body was so badly deteriorated that the coroner may never be able to determine the cause of her death. One might classify it as death by isolation. It certainly was death in isolation and that is sad.

In the paper’s recounting of this woman’s back story It is documented that she did have friends and co-workers at one time and even showed up for family events on occasion (rare, but it did happen). She was always recognized by everyone who knew her as someone who kept to herself and that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But she took her need for privacy to the extreme and got to the point where she apparently needed no one. She established this image so firmly in everyone’s mind that there was no one that saw it as unusual that they had not seen her or heard from her in years. She had set her bills up on an auto-payment schedule, so they just kept getting paid after her death until such time as the funds ran out. Eventually her house was repossessed through foreclosure and it was when workmen showed up to repair a hole in the roof that they discovered her body.

Had she taken to heart the little saying from today by Erik Erikson she might still have died, but she would have been missed a lot sooner. We’ll never know if she perhaps could have even been saved by someone who cared and became concerned about her when she didn’t show up somewhere or wasn’t seen for a while.

Gristly stories like this account aside, there is more to Erik’s statement than just watching out for each other. While humans aren’t classified as “pack animals”, we are normally social beings. We depend upon social interactions for reinforcement, feedback and self-assurance. It is important that we learn to like ourselves, but it is also critical thatfriends holdi hands we have the interactions with other humans that confirm who we think we are or help us to become the person that we would like to be. At its most intense and important level this human interaction is with our life-mate. I can no longer even imagine life without the one in my life who completes me. Perhaps that is why the loss of a husband or wife can be so devastating and really why those left behind often seek that level of companionship again.

Another obvious reason that we need each other is that we are all dependent upon the work and contributions of others to supply almost everything that we need. I haven’t seen anything but the trailers for the movie about “The Last Man on Earth”, but I can imagine that initially one could run around breaking into stores for whatever is needed; however, that supply is finite and since no one else was around, there would be no new supplies of anything. Systems such as the power grid that are fairly highly automated might run for some time, but event hey would faultier and quit after a while if there was no one around. So the things that everyone else is out there doing is important to me and what I do somehow is important to them, too.

From time to time we may be in situations where it feels like we’re alone. Maybe we are away from home, maybe even in a fairly isolated location. It is important in time like that to savor our memories of loved ones and friends and woman workingperhaps even to take advantage of modern technologies like Skype to reach out and touch them, if only for a moment. Texting also has a feel of immediacy that is somehow comforting; at least you know that the person on the other end of a texting exchange is there and aware of you. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that sense of loneliness and reaching out to someone for relief. There’s no great honor in being known as a loner and it is no proof of your independence to shun friends and family when you could use help.

On the flip-side of this coin, it is not the right thing to do to allow this to happen with someone that you know. Being concerned about them is not being nosy. Taking steps to communicate with them, even if they have not made thecaring effort with you is reaching out, not reaching in to their lives. It’s not snooping when it’s driven by love or concern, so don’t let your friends or relatives become hermits. Sometimes, if the secrecy and withdrawal of a loved one is caused by factors like drugs or alcohol it is only through your aggressive actions to communicate that you might be able to save them from themselves.  Make them see you and then help them see themselves. Remember that we need each other. Help them see that and we’ll all be better off.