My ABCs: C Is For Communication

by Kevin Burton

   So I had this great idea for a series, my ABCs.

   Take the words that letters stand for in kindergarten, A for apple, B for ball, etc., and trade them in for the words that seem more appropriate after years and years of experience in life. 

  I started this in December. A was for appreciate, B was for Bible, and then…..nothing. Six months of nothing!

   What happened?

   Well, C comes after B, and communication is the obvious C word. Communication is the highway on which life travels. But you should hear those traffic reports! Way too many off ramps. The signs are so confusing.

   While researching this communication post, it has come to light that I perhaps am not the ideal person to be telling people how to communicate. 

   It has also come to light that my wife Jeannette may not be the one who should be guiding me in this quest.

   Exhibit A, our frozen, uncooked fish.

   We have talked about eating better and I told Jeannette I would make fish Sunday.  Eating better talk always leads to cod fish in our house.

   But my last trip to the supermarket jungle netted us a big chunk of ham. This is one of my wife’s favorite meals.

   We talked on Saturday about having the ham. We wandered verbally talking about ham for breakfast and ham for lunch, without deciding between the two. Bad idea that.

   “What do you want with the ham” Jeannette asked before church.

   “Baked potato” I said, and that made her think I didn’t want ham for breakfast.  I in fact intended baked potato to be part of breakfast.  But she turned to some other food and I said, OK, ham for lunch is fine.

   We go to church online, then comes lunchtime and Jeannette is eating leftover Chinese food.

   “I thought we were having ham.” I said.

   “For dinner,” Jeannette said “the evening meal.”

   “But we agreed I would cook fish today.”

   “I thought you meant the fish tomorrow,” she said.

   “Well I did, but the statement came on Saturday, which made tomorrow Sunday, which is now today.”

   “What we got here…is failure to communicate” is a famous line from “Cool Hand Luke.”  I think we all could deploy the line every day.

   Now this ham/fish thing is about the least troublesome misunderstandings a couple can have. Would that all our miss-heard discussions were so innocuous.

   In Genesis chapter 11 we see the early earthlings talking big about building a tower to heaven.  God doesn’t like that, and cuts them down to size by confusing their speech so they couldn’t understand one another. 

   So groups of them went off in different directions and they all forgot about the tower.

   Some of us don’t even have language as an excuse. It seems Jeannette and I, like the United States and United Kingdom, are separated by a common language.

   I say baked potato, a phrase common to both of us, and she eliminates breakfast from the possibility. I have eaten a piece of baked potato twice this week because we grilled a bunch of them last week. That’s not on Jeannette’s radar.

   “You got your ears on,” the CB radio used to ask in the 70s. Are you there, are you listening?

   My ears are on. Trouble is, they have been through a few things. So have yours. Our experiences give shades of meaning to words that are not universal. 

   By the time you work through gender, race, and socioeconomic differences, the fact that some don’t bother to communicate or are deliberately trying to mislead, you wonder how anything gets communicated properly.

   You have words with multiple meanings. I say, “Let’s talk hoops.”  “Great” you say, “will that be basketball, government red tape or earrings?”

    When you have all that nailed down, throw in body language.

   We’ve kept this discussion light, but I could have included some communication examples from the church where I work, from everywhere I’ve ever worked, which are not so funny.

   As you can see I don’t know how to get my arms around the topic of communication.  So I will keep the conclusion at a basic level:

   An honest and diligent effort to communicate contains a heaping helping of listening.  You may have to listen more than once to the same sentence to get the speaker’s intended meaning in proper context.

   This is hard work. Communication is more than just running your mouth.  I’ve had fun with words all my life, but they can trip you up if you’re not careful.

   I hope this discussion helped somebody out there. I’m going to turn off the computer now and see what’s for dinner. Wish me luck.

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