Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dancing with Blindfolds On

If I smile at you, there’s a message there. Perhaps open for interpretation but still a message.

A wink also tells you something.

And if I gave you the middle finger salute, you’d get the point.

Now if I send you a text, you’d have to be able to translate:
            FYI     (For your information)
            IDK     (I did not know) (I don’t know)
            #$        (This is the text symbol for Starbucks)
            511      (Too much information)
            AAYF (As always, your friend)

If I send you an e-mail, you might get my intended message assuming I’ve been succinct enough.

If we go face to face on Skype, we can connect real time and (to a limited degree) read facial features and body language. It’s better than e-mail but doesn’t replace real face-to-face communication.

In the end, face-to-face is the most effective means of communicating. Unless, of course, we’re talking gender differences, generational differences, cultural differences and a myriad of other obstacles to getting our true feelings and thoughts and emotions across to the other person.

Communicating is such an ancient art and yet we still haven’t figured it out.

Most women are better at communicating than men. For most of us men it’s usually black and white. Gray is not part of our color pallet. Yes means yes. No means no. And I don’t know means just that.

What it doesn’t mean is: I have to think about it because I might change my mind whether I want to or not…that’s my right. It’s like static on the radio that one gender can decipher and the other can’t make sense of. Perhaps I’m just the less intuitive of the species but it just doesn’t seem that hard to communicates one’s thoughts. But it can be.

Many old married couples communicate without words or gestures. They know each others' moods, likes and dislikes, preferences and myriad of benchmarks for ‘how things are going.’ Usually she understands before he does.

But some generations before us have had a real problem with basic communications.

My Mother, for example. Raised in a staunch German Catholic farm family, her idea of communication was starkly different than mine is today. Just say German Catholic and there’s a built-in excuse if ever there was one. That one factor (her German heritage) would have been enough to explain things. But then add in small rural community, overpowering Catholic guilt, sexism and lack of education. Now you have all the ingredients for poor to non-existent communications.

My Aunts and Uncles weren’t much better. Their best communicating usually took place during card games. ‘Visits’ were meant to pass the time with safe, innocuous, meaning-less platter that never revealed anything beyond assumptions about the weather, crop forecasts and the latest gossip often generated after mass on Sunday.

Grade school, high school, even college wasn’t much better at meaningful discourse. The teachers lectured. We took notes and then regurgitated back to them via blue books just what they wanted us to hear. The Army wasn’t much different. Only recently have a lot of businesses begun to recognize that employees might actually have something meaningful to say about their business.

McDonalds just spent millions in research to find out that a customer’s first impression of their company comes from the 12-year-old working behind the counter. Seriously!

Then there’s the whole generational thing. Try communicating with a teenager sometime. Good luck with that. Read ‘Ditching my Son in the Amazon’ for my tip on how to enlist the aid of others to deal with this issue.

As I mentioned in my blog (In the Company of Old Men) it’s a challenge forging connections with someone you haven’t seen for over 50 years. Some of these re-acquaintances are content with an occasional coffee every once in a while. Others carry baggage and can’t accept their past for what it was or see the future for what might lay ahead. Some are okay with more frequent meetings. Occasionally someone will come along that you can really reconnect with. 

I’ve got a couple of friends like that. We can pick up wherever we left off and go on from there. They’ve led interesting lives that have always fascinated me. They seem genuinely interested in my writing. It’s always so satisfying to be able to pick up, after an absence of so many years, and just take off with our discourse from there.

I hope I can continue to meet more old friends who are traveling light without excess baggage. Those are always the most fun.

Modern Allegories on Communication:
I once went on a pilgrimage to worship at the altar of a seer. I came for wisdom and advice from this man of letters. But the prophet offered me little more than kernels of wisdom with only a trailing substance of matter.

Yet in my dissatisfaction I realized he had given me a gift. For his words, even in their vacuous state, were nebulous enough to force me to draw my own conclusions and forge my own pathway to enlightenment. His vapid guidance was the spark needed to ignite my own fire inside.

An avatar once invited me to dance but only wanted to stroll. How strange. Why put a line in the water if you don’t want to fish? So sad, I wanted to dance.

I came to educate my grandchildren but they taught me so much more.

As much as we change, we stay the same. The essence of who we are is often masked by the distractions of everyday life.

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
                                                                           Chinese Proverb



It really means Forever Yours.


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