I never cease to be amazed at how differently people express themselves. I’m sitting in a Steak & Shake and three highschool or college girls (I can’t tell anymore, which is a sign that I’m getting old) were just seated in the booth opposite me.
One of the girls asked the others,
“Should I get a milkshake? They’re just so fattening.”
After lots of intervening giggling and negotiations,
“I’ll eat some of your fries if you get fries. What burger are you getting? Hee, hee, hee!
She proceeded to order a double chocolate fudge milkshake!
Granted, highschool girls are almost another race entirely, but still, it has never in my life occurred to me to ask the people I was dining with what I should order. (Upon further eavesdropping I’m guessing they’re highschoolers, but what do I know.) Nor have I ever hesitated to order a milkshake because it was fattening. …Perhaps I should start…
The reason this struck me is that I’ve been contemplating the complexity of communication today. In several different scenarios I’ve been struck by the discord that was wrought by a failure on the part of the participants to lend one another the benefit of the doubt, let alone to try on the other’s shoes for a moment before replying.
When boiled down to its essence one realizes that this is really an issue of pride. Someone refuses to consider the reality that they may be mistaken, and another party refuses to be always ready to learn something new. Subsequently, we want to force the other party to “cooperate”, rather than humbly consider that the view we brought to this conversation may be in need of revision. Whether minor or significant, one won’t know until further reflection, and this can’t happen unless we’ve engaged in humble dialogue.
Here’s another idea. To some degree you just talk the way you talk; you are who you are. A few weeks ago my freshly 6- year-old daughter asked me what DNA was, and I found myself about to reply with an answer that most certainly would not have shed any light on the topic for her. However, I caught myself, tried to put myself in 6-year-old shoes and tried again. So being myself, I would have answered with another set of words she needed to have explained. Thinking of her, I was able to communicate in a way that had meaning for her, rather than meaning to me.
Perhaps it’s a silly example, and in some ways I’m making light of what in reality is a pretty significant issue. But, hopefully I’ve communicated in a way that may mean something to you. And, if not, well it’s the exercise that is the first step.