There has been “I’m sorry,” “Can I ask you a question?” and “I don’t know what you mean.”
I’ve heard “Please forgive me,” “You need to know…” and “Can we talk about this?”
In the past year, it feels like I’ve been drinking from a fire hose when it comes to learning how to communicate — and there have been plenty of opportunities to put it into practice as well.
Sometimes I marvel at the fact that we humans ever communicate anything with any success.
Even within the same language, words are understood in different ways by different people; we use actions and intonation and imply things; we assume others understand.
Let’s not even talk about what happens when you add in a second language or move communication to typed words on a screen, removing voice, facial expressions, and body language.
In the best of situations, we try to explain something well and might be misunderstood. In the worst of situations we purposefully use words for harm. Things are said and left unsaid and both ways we hurt each other. Assumptions are made based on incomplete information and resentment is born.
We share space (literally and metaphorically) with other humans constantly.
Sometimes we rub one another raw, leaving a trail of hurt. And sometimes we breathe into one another a breath of life, the voice of God, the peace of His presence, the connection and wholeness of relationship that was always meant to be.
How do we create sustainable, life-giving, compassionate, and honest relationships?
I am convinced that intentional, clear, and kind communication is the foundation. In the push and pull of relationships, the give and take, the ups and downs, the needs and gifts, understanding the other’s perspective and communicating my own is essential.
This means asking questions, listening, assuming the best of someone, and seeking to understand how the other person processes and communicates.
And it means asking forgiveness, bringing up awkward conversations, asking what needs to change, and putting the other person before myself.
This is work but something tells me it’s worth it.