We have developed a plethora of platforms and devices to communicate, and we have also learned to speak in numerous languages. We interact with people across different cultures and have far more ease of access to each other than we ever did before.
And yet, we seem to stumble in the basics. Our words often fail to say what we mean and what we really mean, too often, remains unsaid. Our intent is somewhere lost in the form our communication tends to take these days.
Language itself has its inherent limitations with the same words meaning diametrically different things to different people. For example, ‘friendship’, ‘relationship’, ‘marriage’, ‘love’, ‘acceptance’, ‘forgiveness’ are all used as though we are all in agreement on what they imply. If you ever investigate this belief, you may be surprised at the extent of difference in perceptions.
To top it all, affection, praise and support are now communicated through sharp comments that are supposed to be witty, and biting words are used as terms of endearment. Not that there are any rules as to how love is to be demonstrated.
However, the growing extent of casual insensitivity takes its toll on all relationships in the long run. It also subtly adds to the violence in society. Not all abuse is physical after all.
The “I don’t give a damn” attitude is beginning to show up in all areas of our lives, including day to day interactions. Is it possible that all the roughness, cynicism, aloofness and habit of dismissing offhand anything that touches us is a habit we need to re-examine?
Just for a day, pay attention to your speech, gestures and non-verbal communication. Notice others around you as well. The ones we are closest to are probably where this will show up the most, because we tend to be a little more careful in our interaction with those we do not take for granted.
In our attempt to appear thick skinned and worldly, in our fear of looking too soft or not fitting into a dog-eats-dog world, in our protecting ourselves from everything that makes us feel, makes us human and makes us gentle or sensitive – as a race, we have grown accustomed to abrasive ways.
As someone who believes we can only change our self – here is how I address this:
- With Myself:
- Spending time alone roots me in my own nature. This helps me discern who I am and where I am falling under external influence. When I am at peace with myself, there is no pressure on me to conform and hence I choose the freedom of being free, light and natural. Even if that means being straight forward, demonstrative or vulnerable.
- Self talk is also something that needs to be noticed. There is no difference in the way we treat ourselves and others. So kindness and authenticity begin with me.
- Towards Others:
- I do my best in being mindful in my own communication. I cannot be responsible for how it lands, but I can do my best to make an attempt to be as kind and clear as possible at my end.
- When I find I have slipped, I take responsibility for it, apologize and make amends in a matter that seems appropriate to my heart.
- In Response to Others:
- The first of Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements is a good caveat: “Don’t take it personally.”
- In addition, if I do feel hurt by the words or behavior coming my way, I have found a practical tool that helps me to adjust: “Translate.” In my own mind, I look for the positive intent under the words and translate what they actually mean. The more often I have practiced this, the more useful I have found it. Instead of reacting to the apparent, responding to the underlying sentiment generally results in a more harmonious interaction, wherein both can sometimes find the courage to drop the masks and display an authentic vulnerability.
In closing, I would like to share Maya Angelou’s wise words:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
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