Communication – Why is it so hard?
One of the advantages of having my in-laws live with us is the laughter we get from mis-communication. Sometimes, this is due to having poor hearing. From this morning, before breakfast:
(91 year-old father-in-law, looking out the window) “It’s windy!”
(87 year-old mother-in-law, reading the newspaper) “No, it’s not. It’s Tuesday.”
Sometimes the communication barrier is not due to poor transmission but to poor reception. My father-in-law asks every morning at breakfast if this is the day that the barbershop will re-open. Every morning, we tell him, “No, it will be the middle of next month at the earliest.” But, the message is not received (or remembered), so we will talk about that again tomorrow, I’m sure.
Sometimes, there is vague to no communication, which leaves us guessing. His daughter, my wife, cuts my hair and has for nearly 40 years. “Susan could cut your hair,” I tell him. “Nah,” he says, “I’ll just wait.” Why not, I wonder. Does he not like my haircut? Is he afraid she will cut him? Does he miss the barbershop atmosphere? He won’t say, so we are left to scratch our heads.
Sometimes, the communication is attempted, but ignored. I have been making a series of video recordings for an online course I am creating. I sit at the table on the back porch to make the videos. Although I’ve asked her not to open the door when I am on the porch, my mother-in-law just can’t take watching our dog or cat looking longingly out the glass door. So, she opens the door, the pets charge onto the porch, and I retake that segment.
Thus, I resorted to putting a post-it note on the door.
Communication issues resolved!
Not quite. This morning, I heard my mother-in-law ask my wife why I was making these recordings at 1 AM. Two words on my note (“I am”) were not communicating well to her.
Each of these communication problems happened this morning. I am writing this at 10 AM. The day is young. More communication problems are bound to come.
For the most part, we have the choice of how we will deal with communication problems. Will we get angry or grow empathetic? Will we ignore or re-explain? Will we give up or try again?
Communicating as a Bible teacher is no easier. I have a pastor friend who served in the Washington, DC area twenty-plus years ago. When I went to visit, I asked his wife how things were going. “He’s having the hardest time with his sermons,” she told me. “If he says something about working hard and making responsible choices, the Democrats jump on him for preaching a Republican sermon. If he preaches about taking care of the least of these, the Republicans jump on him for preaching a Democratic sermon. He’s just trying to preach the gospel, but they can’t hear it.” Twenty-plus years later, that problem is no longer unique to the Beltway. It is a problem in every community and in every church, particularly in an election year.
My plea is that we be patient with one another, listen to one another, and assume the best of one another.
If you think that is too much to ask, maybe I’m just not communicating it well enough.