It’s funny how differently people communicate. Some think that because they talk, they are communicating. Others think that if they listen, they are communicating. Taking notes-is that communicating? So is body language-do we count that?
When I’m teaching, I’m communicating. My students have silent and not-so-silent forms of communication. Boys communicate differently from girls, and men from women. Do animals communicate? People of different cultures have modes of communication that are sometimes difficult for outsiders to understand. Writing is a form of communicating, too, and probably my most comfortable mode.
I start the year teaching about precision of language, and how problematic it can be when we are careless with language and use incorrect and powerful words. When I’m teaching my students literary analysis, I hammer the idea of justification-that whatever claim they are trying to make, they need to back it up with proof from the text. When we work on argumentative writing, we try to not only consider our beliefs, but also try to predict a counterargument. Narrative writing needs to communicate visual ideas and sensory
The problem I’m noticing lately is when adults try to communicate only through words, and they either have little command of language, or are sloppy at it. Some adults prefer email to face-to-face encounters, and would rather write out their feelings and opinions than talk on the phone. In meetings, some use language to communicate verbally, others try to write it all down as it is spoken, and leave the interpretation for later. In watching this, I’m realizing that these modes are all problematic.
The poor writer chooses the wrong word and is misunderstood. The emailer loses the ability to show emotion and body language. The talkers spend so much time hearing their own voice that they cannot hear anyone else, and the note takers risk having slow fingers that only catch part of the truth, and leave the rest open for interpretation.
For me, it all kind of comes back to justification and precision. If we think, then write, we need to back up our assertions. This isn’t to say that we all need to create lawyer-like arguments for our thoughts, but we need to think it through before it comes out of our mouth or onto a paper. We need to consider our language, and the power of our words to motivate, measure, or make misery. We need to choose what we say, when we say it, and how we say it with thoughts of the recipient. To do any less opens the door for heartbreak, heartache, and misunderstandings. I know this is a tall order-thinking before I speak is something I have to make a conscious effort towards daily. It’s not easy, but it is getting easier.
I can only imagine how much better my world would be if more people took the time to communicate. Isn’t it worth a try?