The delicate Art of Communication
Communication is the most important tool we have as human beings to interact with one another and the world around us. Wether we are actually talking or not we are in constant communication with the universe; with our thoughts, feelings, actions and mannerisms. This also happens to be the single most challenging thing we face in our relationships to one another. Has anyone ever learned how to communicate clearly and in a healthy manner? I wonder. I certainly haven't and over the past few months I had to face my own shortcomings in that subject. It certainly is difficult to navigate this mine ridden territory of relating to others and to not forget yourself in the process. I recently came back from a long trip to Germany and Spain to visit my family and friends who I hadn't seen for many years. There I had to play the translator for my entire family, friends and even strangers; translating into German, English and Spanish using my hands and feet when all else failed. It was exhausting. Yet this is nothing new to me since I grew up in a multi cultural family and ultimately marrying an American. One definitely learns the intricacies of communication and the subtle signs that go along with it. Add different countries to the mix and you have a complex web of cultural do's and don'ts.
My mom always used to say: "The tone makes the music." Instead of only seeing my own pain, I have found it very productive for the sake of any conversation not to immediately accuse or dish out blame. We are so quick to say negative things but somehow it seems harder for us to say nice things to one another. Most people will immediately shut down if you start pointing out all of their mistakes. Why not start by acknowledging your concern or love for that person/relationship you share and point out that your objective is merely to strengthen and deepen the bond based on honesty and mutual trust. Most people will be much more willing to communicate then.
It is quiet ironic that I should be the one helping others in their relationships through communication when growing up my family did anything but. In the past few months I had come to the painful realization how toxic it can be to keep things in and not talk about them. We tend to avoid speaking up because we are afraid we might offend or hurt the other person. Other times we may feel ashamed of our own feelings that we decide to bury them. But they have a way of unexpectedly surfacing don't they! I have held back for too many years. I have not acknowledged my own feelings. Half of the time I didn't even know how I was feeling because I never stopped to think about it. Then if you avoid long enough stuff becomes twisted and muddy that to understand yourself is like walking through a swamp. When we hold back for too long our communication takes the form of anger outbursts and frustration. We attack because deep inside we feel unvalidated. Usually however it isn't the other persons fault. Most of the time our partners, friends or family members won't even know where our anger is coming from. So we need to learn to address things as they arise so they do not have a chance to fester. We need to love ourselves enough to honor our feelings and let our needs be heard. In a healthy conversation the other person does not have to agree with you or even understand what you mean. What is most important is that the other person allows you to be heard and respects theft that you feel the way you feel. That is all: Validation and respect so that you can feel safe to open up. We do not need to agree on the situation in question as long as we can agree that we all feel anger, jealousy, grief, fear etc. and have compassion for our partner/friend who is experiencing these feelings in that particular moment. We can empathize with that because we have all felt them at some point or another in our own lives.
We don't always have to agree. Everybody communicates differently and perceives life challenges differently. But you may be surprised how someones' approach, no matter how different from yours, may open you up to a new way of looking at your own situation. The older we get the more stuck in our ways we can become. So it can be quiet refreshing to put yourself in another persons shoes. It may even soften your previous opinion about them.
After seeing the patterns in my own family and in our throw away society today, I have realized that most of us enter any relationship, be it a friendship or partnership, with the objective to get something out of it. Maybe its fun, companionship, sex, or not to feel alone etc. We usually never approach a relationship thinking: "What can I bring to the table?" We give up too quickly and move on to the next best thing. I mean we all have to be honest with ourselves here. Its the truth. Yes I love my friends, husband and the people I know but at the core we enter these relationship seeking to get something from it. Not for selfish reasons but because we hurt or do not love ourselves enough. Instead of only seeing your pain maybe you can turn that thinking around and try to see what joy that could be brought out of any relationship that you enter from now on.
In the last year I have addressed so many issues in my own life that all go back to my childhood and way of thinking, feeling. It wasn't easy by any means, to see the raw truth of not only what had been done to me but also what my words and actions had caused in other people lives. Yet I do have to admit, I would rather go through this emotional roller coaster to understand myself better than to avoid. To avoid is to push yourself away. To avoid is to not know yourself. And lets be honest that's stupid! The more I am learning about myself through my relationships to others, the stronger I feel. I suffer but I am gaining inner strength. To avoid myself is almost like avoiding life itself. I feel more grounded and present then I have ever felt before in my life. I know many of you are suffering right now or have been but I send you love and light on your exciting journey of self-discovery. What are the lesson's you have been l;earning about yourself in the past few months? Feel free to share, I would love to hear from you.