"What we've got here is a failure to communicate." This infamous quote from the film Cool Hand Luke is quite catchy. The perpetual nature of its truth is saddening though. It is instructive for us to investigate its application to our present study. A modern tragedy of humanity bears itself through human communication. We live in a society that provides speed and quantity of communication. In this we find our own self caught up in the race for more of each. We are more complex than this. Our Creator made us societal beings. We thirst for real human interaction. To master empathy we must perturb the nature of modern communication. In place of speed we must insert contemplation. Instead of quantity we should seek quality.
We might say that our misunderstandings during communication have caused more harm and hurt to society than any other single factor of all those that are avoidable. For it is true that we can master control over our own perspective and master the art of experiencing others' emotions while still failing to understand what another has attempted to convey. We should draw upon an extreme application used to mitigate communication errors. Those of us who spent time on a naval vessel are quite likely to have mastered the art of 'repeat-back'. Repeat-back is this ancient tool developed by mariners to ensure orders are precisely understood. It is a simple doctrine. We verbally repeat back orders given prior to carrying them out so that all in earshot can review our mutual understanding prior to taking action.
Let us propose here that we should take a lesson from this naval practice. When our acquaintance has approached us for discussion we might like to imagine our self upon a ship with the compass directed to steer us toward mutual respect and mutual benefit. Like actual mariners we must carefully navigate the waters of understanding. We should then after listening to our friend describe a portion of the problem at hand attempt to describe it back to them in our own words. This provides a few benefits. One important benefit is our forced engagement in dialogue. Instead of saying 'uh-huh' and 'awe' every 7-10 seconds we are forced to present our own interpretation of what has been said. If we are correct then the friend will likely respond with, "Yes, that's right" or if not then "Well, not exactly". After this our friend then moves on to the next, deeper, more emotional part of the problem or they will attempt to explain the current portion in better detail. The vital benefit of this process, however, is the confirmed understanding. Mutual understanding strengthens our bond and ripens our trust. If we feel understood, we feel empowered and loved. Our world could use much more of both of these.
Copyright © Robert Clinton Chedester 2013