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“Oh yeah!! It seems like family communication is both the easiest and hardest of all. Easiest because there’s so much shared understanding and experience. Hardest because the unconscious taboos of each family are so deeply embedded and defended. And I think you’re right about possible power imbalances…it seems like there can be a LOT about establishing and maintaining a power structure underneath the ideas actually being communicated.”

The above comment on my most recent post is from a valued reader. Apparently Blogger has unilaterally decided to censor her comments. What’s up with that? Grrrr.

For me, family communication is harder than it is easier. No, that’s not exactly fair. I do have family members with whom I communicate as if they were alter-egos. Oddly, that level of understanding and empathy exists in spite of (or because of?) a language barrier. But in other cases, rewarding communication eludes me.

I keep returning to the commenter’s sentence, “Easiest because there’s so much shared understanding and experience.” In my case, there may be shared experiences but there is very little shared understanding of those experiences. This goes back to what I mentioned in the earlier post about the importance of context in communication.

A simple definition of context from http://www.thefreedictionary.com explains context as “the conditions and circumstances that are relevant to an event, fact, etc.” The same site defines perspective as “the proper or accurate point of view or the ability to see it.”

Two people may share an experience, but what each takes away from that experience will vary based upon their individual perspectives. Perspective is relative and depends upon physical location as well as historic background and schema.

For example: Two cars collide at an intersection. The police interview both drivers and three bystanders. How likely is it that all five reports will be the same? The bystanders observed the event from different perspectives. One bystander noticed a child’s ball rolling in the street near the intersection. The other bystanders couldn’t see the ball from where they were standing. The drivers’ perspectives include a plethora of background distractions which muddle their comprehension of the exact events that lead up to the crash. Perhaps one of the drivers did see movement near the intersection. This unidentified movement momentarily distracted the driver’s eye from the oncoming traffic. Maybe one or both of the drivers’ attention was frayed by a child in the back seat Their perspective is their truth, their reality, and by exploring all the five perspectives we arrive at a context for the accident, or the circumstances that are relevant.

It seems that effective communication requires all parties to recognize that there is more than one truth. One person’s reality may seem to be a crumpled version of the other person’s truth…but each individual owns his perspective, owns her truth. You need not believe that I am correct to believe that I speak truthfully.

Okay, that’s not so hard. I understand perspective and context. But, how in the world did someone just push my button once again, turning me into a defensive snapping turtle?

There’s more more to explore. Tell me of your experiences with difficult communication.