The Language Dance

I struggle with communication problems.  Perpetually.  Not my own, mind you, but other people’s – and the effect their choices when speaking (or to stay silent) have on my life.

I would like to say it started with my fallout with Sifu over his response to my first tournament win or with the endless weeks it took to get a straight answer from the gym on whether I could run a kung fu class.  But it didn’t.  I would like to say I’m immune to such problems myself, but I’m not.  I’ve noticed, for decades it seems, going back to arguments with an ex-husband who excelled at passive aggression, that most people do not simply state what they want or need at the appropriate time in the appropriate way.  The burning question of my morning is: can anything be done about this?

If there’s a solution, the first order of business would be to determine why people don’t just speak when they should.  The obvious answer, of course, is fear – fear of not getting what’s wanted; fear of disappointing, hurting or angering the other person(s) in the conversation.  But the painful irony is that the language dance that must be done to avoid the disappointment, hurt or anger leaves the core of the message undelivered.  Sometimes what is said is so ambiguous interpretation is required to decipher the point – and misunderstanding is virtually guaranteed.

The flip side of the beating-around-the-bush-approach is the one I was raised with – an often-disturbing absence of nuance that unquestionably causes the hurt, anger, etc. that I would like to avoid as much as the beat-around-the-bush folks.  I just want to be clear and understood more.

I never had any problem understanding my parents or other family members.  I thought everyone was as direct as they were.  Then, I left home.

I’m not recommending my familial approach.  Regular readers know that I’ve made greater mindfulness an important part of my life in recent months.  That includes trying to be aware of how my words will be received before I speak them and adjusting accordingly.  Some days, though, I’d give an awful lot to just get through an entire twenty-four hour period without having to ask: “Why didn’t you tell me that before?” or “What does that mean?”

Surely there’s a middle ground or two, a way around both communication approaches without the entire human race having to take classes in behavioral psychology or clinical social work.  But maybe not… you know what I mean? 🙂

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About T. D. Davis

Baker and former journalist. View all posts by T. D. Davis

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