Words are an important part of daily life. Words said with different inflection, can mean different things. There are disagreements on any number of topics that come from what we call miscommunication. Miscommunication comes when both parties have a certain understanding of what is being communicated and neither one is right. This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post on communicating with clarity. I thought I should mention some of the opposite to what I said yesterday, just for fun.
My credibility to talk about this subject comes from my own life. When my wife and I got married, I was working as a mechanic and driver at a school bus company. This also happened to be our last year of college and my wife was doing her student teaching in the school district I was working in. I would drive to work earlier than she would come into town. One very cold morning I was driving my morning bus route when someone called in on the radio stating that they had spotted my wife broken down on the side of the road. At that exact moment, I was pulling into the high school with a bus load of kids. This was not the most opportune time to hear something like this. Being male, I immediately went into my “how can I fix this” mode. Seeing no option, I grabbed the radio and responded with “there’s nothing I can do about it.” Now, before you paint me as some insensitive husband, you need to understand that in my mind I thought this driver was telling me to come over there and get her. I thought that she was trying to get me to stop what I was doing and fix the car. The piece of information I was missing was that this driver had picked her up, out of the below zero weather, and she was listening to what I had just said. I finished my route and this driver brought my wife to me. She was very mad at me and I had no idea why. Making matters worse was that in all the jumping up and down to flag someone down she had lost her keys on the sidewalk somewhere. Thankfully they were still on the ground when we got back over there. Oh, and she was very early in the pregnancy of our first child and was concerned about all the jumping she had done. You know what made it even more fun was that I went over there after my route to pick the car up and it started and ran without a problem. I drove it all over the place and it never did that again.
How quickly things change when there is emotion coupled with misunderstanding!
Here are a few ways we communicate without clarity based on nothing more than my own observations. Feel free to add your own.
1- Emotional Grid – People who have a certain hot button issue they are passionate about might hear a lot of things through the grid of their issue. This makes discussion near that topic very dangerous. We are getting into the political season in our country where people get passionate about their particular issue or candidate. It is a recipe for miscommunication, if there is no relational foundation to start with. (and often even if there is)
2- Whatever – I hear this one from parents of teenagers a lot. When someone doesn’t want to get into a discussion about something, even though they are upset, they might just say, “whatever.” This is a passive way of back talking and disagreeing.
3- Fine – Just like ‘whatever’ is the word ‘fine.’ When someone makes this exclamation they are usually annoyed past their tipping point. They might be giving in to something or they might be defiantly resisting something and accepting a punishment. Either way it leaves a lot of guessing to be done.
4- Interesting- I could tell you the truth about how much I don’t like your idea, or I could just say that the idea is “interesting.” Which is more helpful? I think we would rather hear that our idea is a good one, but what if it isn’t? It doesn’t mean smashing someone, just being able to communicate clearly. If an idea is not going to work and you know it, please tell me! On the other side of it is the ability to not take everything so personally. People get rather skittish around people who take everything as a personal attack. In ministry, for example, if I tied my personal life to any criticism I receive about something in the ministry, I would go looney. You just can’t do that. I have met people like this and it isn’t an invitation deeper relationships. (or longevity in ministry)
5- Inside Jokes – You have certainly been in a room with someone who constantly laughs, only to have you look at them in curiosity and then they look back at you with, “oh, inside joke.” Listen, either bring me inside or keep it to yourself. (how’s that for clear?) All that communicates to me is I am not a part of your group. Depending how sensitive people are in the room, it could have varying effects on people.
This all comes down to love for each other. I realize that I am not perfect at this and no one is. I do recognize that I am called to love people, just like you are.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35
Part of loving one another is communicating properly and receiving what people say properly. This means parting with some of that immediate offense and instead assuming that people don’t mean to hurt you with their words. Of course people do at times, but we can avoid misunderstandings by giving each other some grace and jumping to the conclusion that we always know what they mean.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.- Romans 12:17