Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Talk to Me

I know it sounds cliche, but it really is all about communication. This is what they tell us when we are about to marry. Without it, we have no way of expressing our needs and wants, nor can we know others needs and wants. I think that to some degree we all understand the importance of communication. It's vital to marital relationships, relationships at work, and between friends. Its so important we teach sign language to babies. We all know this. Why, oh why, then is it so hard? Despite our knowledge of its importance we still fail to do so - far more than we should. Married couples who were told that the most important thing in a relationship is communication still get divorced. Millions of dollars are spent on counselors whose job is really just a professional communicator.

Now lets think about this. There are professionals out there who have studied how we communicate with each other, and get paid money to either help us communicate with other people or they use communication to help us figure out emotional dysfunctions. People can go to college to study how we communicate. You can go to a university where a knowledgeable professor can teach you all about it. Why is this? Don't we all know how to communicate? We learn how to speak, how to read and write. Doesn't this mean we all know how to communicate? Well, first off I think we often confuse "communication" with "language". And like a lot of things, communication is a skill. The fact that we can go to schools specifically dedicated to teaching people how to hone this skill makes it pretty evident that not only is this something we can develop, but also that its incredibly complex. Emotions skew perceptions, words fail us, body language gets ignored. To demonstrate what I'm talking about, consider this conversation.

"Honey, you feeling okay?"

"(sigh) Yeah, I'm fine."

"Alright. Well, I'm going to go play some golf with the guys. Bye!"

Any couple will tell you that this scenario doesn't end well for either party. Now, I'm not writing this to tell the world what an awesome communicator I am. In fact, my wife will tell you that my skills could use some serious improving. We all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to talking to each other.

My son is pretty stoic and my wife is great at getting him to open up tell her stuff that under normal circumstances he wouldn't talk about. On the other hand my very energetic and emotional daughter responds better to me. There are times (more often than I'd like to admit) when she will be in tears about one thing or another. Often when this happens I will be called in to remedy the situation. After a few moments with me, my formerly inconsolably sad or angry daughter will be right as rain. I usually come out of her room to find my despondent wife. At this point I usually smugly tell her, "I'm magic". She doesn't like this. (I do it anyway)

I was having some one-on-one daddy-daughter time and I was thinking about this. I wanted to know if she was aware of this dynamic so I flat out asked her.

"Who is best at getting you to calm down when you're upset"

"You are."

"Really? Why do you think that is?"

"You know how to talk to me."

This phrase coming out of her struck me, and has been stuck in my head ever since. Her answer was profound to me. She was aware. Not only that, but she had stumbled on to something that I hadn't really thought about. She knows that when she's feeling upset I have a skill set that enables her to emotionally stabilize. Even though she can tell you what I'll do and say to calm her, she still needs me to do it. I know how to talk to her. Suddenly, my role as a parent became that much more important. I may not be great at communicating with most people. There are many skills I have yet to develop. I learned that knowing how to talk to one person doesn't mean that you're good at communicating with other people. That being said, I find it profoundly gratifying that there is at least one person that I really have learned to communicate with. There is at least one person whom I can provide for on an emotional level.

This moment made me consider this as well: do I have someone that knows how to talk to me? Do I know how to talk to my wife, my son? I became more acutely aware of communication as a skill - something you can learn and know. I realized why therapists find their careers so gratifying - they know how to talk to people (some of them at least). How much happier would we all be if we all had the skills to communicate with each other? Would the world be a better place if we all learned how to talk to each other?

1 comment:

  1. "I'm magic"...... Worry not Sunny I hear this from Brett all the time over Vent (A VoIP app we use for communication over our PCs) to date I've yet to witness said magic :-P

    This post really hit home for me this week as 2 friends of mine are ending a 14 year marriage, and as I have listened to the both of them (separate and together) it amazed me all the talking that was going on between them but almost no communication