Let’s Talk, and Listen

“Whether clear or garbled, tumultuous or silent, deliberate or fatally inadvertent, communication is the ground of meeting… It is, in short, the essential human connection.” – Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson

“Talk and change the world.” – Slogan espoused by a group of U.S. Senators who happened to be female. (as reported in Communication Works tenth edition, by Teri Kwal Gamble and Michael Gamble.)

My husband’s six year old computer finally died. He gave it a hard workout with all the high powered graphics programs he uses and it served him well. But, that means he and I are now sharing my computer, which reminded me of when we first moved here. We had only one car. That meant we drove to work together every morning and home together every night. We did that for about six years until we moved out into the country, twenty miles or more from town. Then I took a job forty-five miles in one direction and Barry continued to drive twenty-one miles in the opposite direction. That made two cars necessary and everything changed.

Once we were driving in opposite directions, the nature of our communication deteriorated. We didn’t talk as much as we had before, because our schedules were so different. I had to leave very early in the morning and usually got home three hours before having to go to bed so I’d be fresh for the next day. Every weekend I was working on school projects and Barry had his activities. We barely saw each other and little by little got out of the habit of talking, except for vital communications.

The thing that was so wonderful about driving to work together was that we got an extra twenty minutes to an hour to be with each other every day. Barry and I enjoyed that extra time. If we’d been having a conversation at breakfast, we could finish it in the car. At the end of the day, we could decompress. We both missed that. There’s something cold about going out for dinner, or going to some event and having to interrupt your lovely conversation to drive home in separate cars.

Recently,when I began to teach an introductory communication course at the local community college, I realized that Barry and I had lost some of our communication skills.  As the students and I talked about the skills necessary for good communication, I realized that I needed to do as much work to improve my skills as my students did. It takes practice to have meaningful conversations with your spouse, or anyone for that matter. It’s so important to see body language, facial expressions and to truly listen to what another person is saying. It’s also important to be able to put your own feelings aside long enough to try to understand what the other person is saying.

When I look back over the years Barry and I’ve spent together, some of the moments I cherish most are when we’ve had a good talk, or worked together on a project and were communicating well. It’s been a challenge to get our communication mojo back. Fortunately we were lucky to have good teachers in how to communicate well. My dad was an exquisite listener and communicator. By observing how he listened, considered and then responded to people, I learned how to be fully present for someone else. Our home was a great learning lab. My dad taught me that listening is at the heart of good communication. Thinking about what you’re going to say before you’ve heard what the other person is saying is not communicating. Maybe that’s part of our problem at the moment. We don’t listen to each other. We don’t take time to try to understand each other. We don’t trust each other because we think that everyone else should see the world the way we do. But that’s impossible. A good communicator tries to understand how the person their talking to sees the world and then find common ground.

Maybe my communication students are right, we need to redevelop our face-to-face communication skills again. I’m in favor of that. Having good technology skills is important, but being able to understand and be understood by your family, friends and colleagues is so much more important.

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8 thoughts on “Let’s Talk, and Listen

  1. Well-said! Communication is the fabric of quality relationships. Something I’ve been trying to learn is the technique of repeating back to people what they’ve said, especially in the context of a heated discussion. It can help tremendously to stop myself from retorting and instead say, “So it sounds like you think ____, right?” That gives the other person a chance to correct themselves and hear what he/she said, while it gives me a chance to collect myself and reply directly to what the other person said, not to my own thoughts.

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    • lucindasagemidgorden

      Anna, Yeah, active listening is vital in any interaction. Good point. It does take practice. Thanks for your great comments.

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  2. You are right on about face to face. Many times we say something meant to be taken a certain way and the listener hears it differently. You can’t tell that when it is a text or even over the phone but face to face you can see the reaction of the listener and know whether or not they took it the way it was meant by their facial expression or body language. That gives you the opportunity to make sure the listener hears it the way it was meant and does not harbor any resentment or ill feelings because the misinterpreted what you tried to convey.

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    • lucindasagemidgorden

      Michael, You would know since you’re separated from family. It’s great to have some method of communication, but it sounds like you’re like me and prefer face-to-face. There’s an energy that just isn’t there when communicating over the phone, email, or texting. Thanks for your post.

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  3. Jacqueline Synclair Chappell

    Our society is losing that face to face quality. I LOVE to give speeches and talk in from of groups. At one point I thought I would make a career of it. But, there is little use for this today… Usually,, the comment is,, Get on line at www. something and you will find what you need there. Being over 50 I llike and prefer people interaction! You just can not get inflection over the phone or internet..CAPS just don’t hold the same power as voice, expression, and inflection…..Good Job.

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    • lucindasagemidgorden

      Jacqueline, I think if you like doing face-to-face workshops and seminars, you should go for it. Those people who are supposed to show up, will show up. Many of my students are young people. They were the ones lamenting the loss of face-to-face contact. Good luck in your endeavors.

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  4. Thank you, Lucinda, for the reminder about the importance of good communication. I often bemoan the loss of the written language and language in general. Learning to speak and write in complete sentences, using interesting vocabulary used to be an art form. Now, every thing is shortened and abbreviated until half the time I don’t know what I’m reading. We read emotions and back stories into the written word as well, and texting opens the door for rampant misunderstandings. My twenty something son worries about this and also prefers face to face. As for marriage communication I’m all for all couples being taught communication skills, either before marriage, or early on. When many years of poor communication go by, the damage can linger and something precious can be lost.

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    • lucindasagemidgorden

      Dorothy, Thanks for your reply. The other day my husband and I were watching a classic movie and I said, “They don’t write movies with that kind of language anymore.” Yet, I do know some people who speak and write eloquently. I don’t think good face-to-face communication is dead yet. One day it’ll be revived, I’m sure of it.

      What you said about communication or lack of it in marriage is so true. Perhaps lack of good communication is the biggest cause of the divorce rate. I’m certainly glad I taught that college course, because I learned a great deal and was reminded of the importance of clear communication.

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