Something about communication can be incredibly beautiful: that we can take our thoughts and experiences, express them through language and, through conversing, share and develop our own ideas as well as coming to understand others. It’s been touched on a few times here, both in its capacity to enrich our lives and for the challenges it presents society (see Notes One).
Because if communication is this sharing, this act of listening as much as articulating our own interests, in a way it’s fundamentally confronting: we have to suspend the self with all our beliefs, opinions and judgements in order for the other to find space to express theirs. Which I suppose is the idea of tolerance: to allow something without interference; creating that space for a different reality to be heard without conflict.
Often though it seems we want to ‘win’ at conversations; to be heard, validated, unchallenged, or at least defeat those challenges (Notes Two). As if that space of tolerance isn’t available, it’s the ground we don’t want to offer in case we cannot get it back.
This energy of a battleground can be a deterrent to broaching many topics, as offering up meaningful aspects of yourself or addressing something you’re less familiar or confident with can leave you open to an easy or painful defeat. And some simply just don’t want to argue, don’t like ‘attack and defence’ as a model for communicating.
And I wonder why we’re feeling this threatened; why time’s so tight, patience so thin, and tempers so high. I guess there’s this sense that things are moving fast so we have to jump in and get heard (Note Three). Also that our pace of living leaves less scope for patiently listening to those we might have less in common with (Note Four). It does seem we have less time and more pressure of varying sorts – more stress.
But maybe intolerance and poor communication add to that. Maybe these walls we put up against others leave us more isolated or frustrated as we cling rigidly to our views and break the habit of making room for others. And, in doing so, we might risk losing something valuable: sharing ideas and experiences, exploring how we’re different and what we have in common, imagining what it is to see life through another’s eyes – letting all that ‘be’ without needing to judge or compare seems beautifully human.
Yet for some reason there seems to be this pressure to form an opinion, an identity, a set of defining choices, then to stand by what we’ve chosen. I’m not at all sure where that comes from. Maybe from business, consumption and marketing; maybe from social media and the principles that are shaping online interactions; or maybe it is simply human nature in a way.
Maybe it’s a fundamental insecurity of being human; but surely also a challenge to rise above feeling threatened and find new ways to communicate beyond differences while still addressing all that needs to be addressed.
Notes and References:
Note 1: Mirrors we offer one another
Note 1: Globalised society finding its feet
Note 1: Where’s the right place to talk?
Note 2: Does truth speak for itself?
Note 3: Patience with the pace of change
Note 4: Attitudes to elder members of society