UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young
• Imagine a kindergarten class about to have “show and tell”. Every student in the class has a hand up because each wants to be the first to have a turn. When one finally goes first, a few pay attention, but many are thinking about what they will say when it is their turn. Others are just waiting for the speaker to finish.
When the speaker is done and the teacher tells the class they may now ask questions of the speaker, invariably some students will ignore what the speaker said and rather than ask a question, they simply tell a story of their own. Basically everyone wants to talk and no one wants to listen. Well this is kindergarten, after all, and people that age are expected to be ego-driven.
Many adult conversations, however, especially disagreements, seem to be conducted much like our kindergarten students. Each is arguing their point or position. Rather than really listening to what the other is saying, those comments are used as a jumping-off point to further elaborate upon what was already said. Rather than a real conversation, the discussion is a battle to try to get the other to see things our way and change their mind. No wonder so many couples say they have communication problems.
The word “communication” comes from the root “commune,” which means to be in a state of intimate, heightened sensitivity and receptivity. This would imply a level of closeness and being very open and sensitive not only to the words, but to the intent and the feelings of the other. Being receptive is defined as: able or inclined to receive; especially: open and responsive to ideas, impressions or suggestions.
Thus, to truly communicate, we would need to be both sensitive and receptive to the other person. I would suggest that sensitivity and receptivity are higher-level qualities that need to be developed.
Of course, this also describes the ego energy that is often carried into adulthood. Growing up is not synonymous with being evolved. We live in an ego-based culture and one really does need to transcend the values and ways of the culture and often the family of origin to move forward.
We call people heroes when they go out of the way and perhaps even face danger to help another. There are some cultures where this is so common and expected that it is not seen as anything particularly unusual. Mother Teresa was a model of compassion and unconditional loving. There are countless less famous people who spend their lives listening, learning and understanding the needs of those who are suffering.
These are people with very open hearts. There is no ego involved here. They only want to help and desire no recognition. These examples may be on the extreme end of the compassion scale, but the principle of open-heartedness is the same whether we are building a hospital or building a relationship.
It is hard to talk to someone who is not open hearted about sensitivity and receptivity. Having meaningful, positive communication is not so much about how we talk, but about who we are.
For communication to be different, we need to be different. It is not, however, about changing the other person, but striving to change ourselves.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit www.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.