Intuitively we know it, but it’s rare even among writers for a human being to break language down enough to realize how ephemeral it really is. It always surprises me that it can accomplish anything at all it’s such a faulty, misunderstood communication system.
Half the time our communication is like broken Morse Code where 25% of the dots and dashes are missing and both parties got different versions of the codebook from their parents and culture.
Writers and scientists and a few weird researchers like me are the ones who look at communication crazy-closely. We slow it down, watch it unfold, and in doing so we can see why people say they’ll do things they never intended to do, or why a spouse doesn’t relax when their partner curtly tells them that they’re “fine.” Yeah, their tone sounds a bit pleasant, but….
These are all communications indeed, but the words used will often combine with the tone and circumstances and history to create entirely different meanings, and often that meaning will even be intentionally imprecise.
The people we know well don’t really do this any better than anyone else but over time we do get to know each other’s codebooks a little, so friends have more success than strangers, but still….
None of this should surprise us. If we listen for it today we’ll realize that often times people are speaking precisely because they don’t want to communicate accurately. “We’re looking into it,” if it’s said to a boss, can just as easily mean, “We’re trying to figure out how to tell about you this without getting fired.”
Of course parents know this process all too well. Many times the year’s backpack gets tossed out the following year because the kids actually lied about cleaning all their old lunches out of them before putting them away for the summer.
Imagine that. A kid lying to their parents. It’s almost as though they’re trying to hide something…. And look at that. I’ve ended three sentences now with ellipses (…) Even I’m implying things I’m not saying.
Isn’t it weird that we roll around in these lies and misdirections every day and we rarely ever acknowledge it? There’s nothing we can do about it, so it’s not like it’s worth worrying about. But we could still benefit enormously by keeping in mind that it’s always happening.
It is not crazy to walk away from any exchange thinking to ourselves, “Okay, I think I understand what they meant.” That way, if it turns out we didn’t –no problem. We didn’t have the expectation that we had.
We all need to believe something to function but it’s important that we not mistake our interpretations of the world for the world itself. There’s no way to talk about the world itself because no one sees the world, everyone just sees their perspective on it.
It’s like we’ve all gathered around the base of Mount Everest. Everyone has a different view; everyone can see something others cannot, and they can’t see things that some others can. In that scenario it’s just crazy to want to be the person who sees through everyone’s eyes. No one has that view unless you want to call that the God-view.
Our view of things, our view of ideas, our view of other people, and our view of ourselves will not align with other’s views nor should they. There are eight billion of us.
Despite how many we share our lives with, if we look at our lives we’ll see a ton of time gets wasted on our efforts to reconcile these views. We invest a lot energy trying to get people to see things from our perspective when that’s rarely necessary and it never really works anyway. We’d be far better off to just let things be, including misunderstandings, and particularly including misunderstandings about us.
This is why we need to trust ourselves and our naturally cooperative heart. All of the other information that we have could potentially be faulty. And everyone’s using different information anyway, so what’s the point in reconciling just this or that one?
We can let all of that balancing, correcting, sorting out and fixing to the other egos and we can live a spiritual life instead.
Whether it’s coming towards us or away from us, we can be okay with being misunderstood. We can be okay with misunderstanding. Be okay with truths. Be okay with lies. We can come to understand that these all make sense from their individual perspectives, and that we can never hope to grasp all of the complexities. We are better to let go and flow instead.
We should avoid comparing events to what we thought would happen, and then just accept them as they are, respond in the moment, and then move on to the next moment. That is what it is to truly understand communication. That is how we use our understanding of it to free ourselves to live a fulfilling life. Accept but don’t believe. Live in the mystery. It really works. I really mean it. Trust me. 😉
Have a wonderful week everyone.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.