When I was young, I knew a lot, or thought I did. I knew it with a certainty I have never been able to match. In these later years, there just seem to be too many questions.
Many of us are the same. I know many people can remember a time when they experienced their own certainty, equally as strong. For most, it got less and less certain as they aged.
One of the many big question marks in my life, which has become larger as I have grown older, is the meaning of everyday communications of people. I no longer think I automatically understand others. There are a lot of subtle messages to understand, and even then I’m not certain.
Communication is difficult. There are too many uncertainties, and many are barriers we don’t recognize.
Just a few of those uncertainties and barriers to communication are:
• Different meanings — words don’t always mean the same thing. At times, the differences are subtle, and sometimes they’re huge. What do you mean?
• Assumed meanings — you may try your best to say what you think you mean, but I can only understand what I think I hear.
• Early learning — we learn a lot during childhood, and one of those things is the meaning of the words we hear. They turn out to be different than those of almost everyone else, though we often make mistakes. They’re close enough we just don’t see the difference unless we look for it.
• Different ages or generations within the same culture — that’s even more difficult when families move to a new country and a new language gets added in.
• Every language has words that don’t translate directly into English or have an entirely different meaning when they do. (Think of the difficulty we’ve had with the many different meanings of the word, “honour” in our country.)
• Different socio-economic environments — people from different socio-economic groups may use the same words, but they often mean different things.
• Different regions of a country — there are many countries in which people have different accents, different phrases, different significant words and different attitudes from their countrymen in other regions. Think of the southern states.
You can do many things to diminish blocks if you want to communicate:
• Listen carefully — this is the first step in all communication!
• Recognize that differences exist and need work to overcome.
• Listen carefully for the meaning beyond the words.
• Ask questions to clarify meaning.
• Listen to answers and ask questions until you’re sure what is meant before talking.
• Try again — and keep trying until you get somewhere!
We don’t directly or easily communicate with anyone. We feel our way. We spend time checking each other out when we first meet. If you work at it, you can do it!