Today I started a 3-day course on mediation for work. As always, it’s inspiring to be reminded of the basics of good communication. I feel encouraged to put them into practice in my personal life and excited about the possible enhancement to all my relationships as I use better communication methods. Just imagine how popular I’ll be if I use more open-ended questions! And I know friends and family will flock to me with my enhanced ability to manage conflict.
In all seriousness, I’ve always admired older women who were great listeners and able to offer feedback and ideas in effective ways. There is something warm and magnetic about a good communicator and it is a quality I would like to have as I mature. Too often I still think of myself as young. Some young is good (have fun, don’t fuss over how you look, be spontaneous, have fun). Some young is not so nice (impose on others, assume that things will be done for you, let yourself be the centre of attention rather than attending to others). I’ve been looking back lately on some of my attitudes and actions from my twenties and shaking my head at my cluelessness. And even my early 30s … how did I think some of those choices were appropriate? Just general thoughtlessness, self-centredness, lack of sensitivity to others. I hope I’ve matured a lot since then, but I suspect I will look back on my late 30s with similar mystification. In a similar way, I’m looking at this paragraph with mystification, wondering where the topic sentence is located … so I’m going to move on to the next paragraph.
The take-away from that last rambling chunk of text, for me, is that good communication involves de-centering and focusing on others (and of course, at the same time, being totally aware of who you are and what you do so you do not become a barrier to the process – but that is a different post). As I get older and hopefully have more perspective on myself I’m better able to focus on others, and I hope, in the process, better able to communicate meaningfully with them. To ask questions that should be asked, open topics worth discussing, provide encouragement and inspiration where needed.
I’m not there right now. I still shy away from asking questions because of a fear of opening up painful personal topics. As a result, I don’t always ask the questions that could foster intimacy. And I sometimes don’t share things because I strive to avoid backbiting. Laudable goal, but limiting communication is an unfortunate side effect.
And finally: becoming the type of communicator I want to be possibly involves seeing oneself as an agent of positive social change while simultaneously letting go of the self to be a vehicle for those positive interactions. And that probably starts with accepting where I am now.