Communication is, perhaps, the most important game of all of the “Games of Life” that we all play. And it is a game that perplexes and befuddles most of us throughout our lifetimes. Yet, it need not be so. For there are some very simple and basic tools of understanding that will enable us to engage in the “communication game” with a satisfactory, if not enjoyable, level of competency. Today, I offer but one of those “tools” for your consideration. I will illustrate it with a vignette from my experience. Please read with patience… as I must explain the details that demonstrate the point.
We would invite guests to our home for an evening of dining and playing well known board games. One of everyone’s favorites was a game involving marbles and a round board. The idea of the game is to use the roll of the dice to generate numbers to be applied to the movement of one’s marbles from a starting point to a finishing point (home.) Each player has their own beginning point and ’home’ point. An exact number must be rolled to start each marble (each player has 5 or so marbles…as I recall) around the board… and an exact number must be rolled to move each marble from the circuit into the “home base.” Hence each player could expect to have one or more marbles waiting on the circuit for an exact number to allow entry into “home.” And those waiting marbles are vulnerable to another player’s passing marble’s landing on them while they were waiting. This would send the waiting marble all of the way back to the start point. ("Aggravating!")
I tell you all of this so that you will have some understanding of why each player would have a degree of anxiety as they tried to roll the exact number to allow the entry of their marbles into home…and away from that place of vulnerability. Thusly, as the game reached its final minutes, the play would consist of all players having all of their marbles lined up at the entrance to their respective home points… no one going around the circuit (the circuit having been completed by all)… and each player, in turn, rolling the dice in the attempt to get the exact number required for entry to home. BORING!! (Or so I decided.)
I, therefore, chose to move my marbles right past my Home Place entry point, continue around the circuit, and land on each of the other players’ marbles waiting for entry to their respective home… thusly sending them, in turn, back to their start point. (The name of the game being "...." [smile]) Oh My! The emotion that I stirred! You would think that I had committed some heinous crime. “You are not playing fair!” these grown adults would cry. “You are not following the rules” they would protest. Whereupon I would demonstrate, by reading the rules (an exercise guaranteed to try the patience of any but the most saintly of persons) that I was fully within the rules to opt to pass up my own opportunities to “win” the game in favor of spoiling others’ chances of winning. (In the truest "spirit" of the game! [I see now that I was such an ass!])
The degree of fury is beyond what I can adequately convey in words here. So incensed would the others become that they banded together (without fail) in their genuine anger against me. This I took as an amusement for I was amazed that these supposedly rational people were putting the placement of a few marbles on a playing surface, above the tangible reality that we as a group of friends were “enjoying” an evening together. And I continually held the genuine belief that they would see the silliness of the moment and join me in a good laugh at ourselves (this NEVER happened.) I was disappointed in the values demonstrated by my friends… and they were disappointed in my obvious willingness to be so “mean-spirited” as to spoil the game for them all. Needless to say, the playing of that game was short-lived.
So what… My Dear Reader… was happening there that offers us some understanding of and means to improve our accomplishment of meaningful communication. Simply this… we are sharing our world with people whose basic and innate temperament and personalities differ from ours. We really do “see” the stuff of life differently. We all have the same “stuff” (circumstances, situations, data, events) presented to us. But we, by nature, PERCEIVE those elements in completely different ways. Those friends, with whom I played that game, were responding to their sense of “begin, play, win” as presented by the rules of the game. They were acting on their natural inclination to follow the CONCRETE structure of the exercise. They were part of the 78% majority of the population (Left-Brain-Dominant) of the world who see all of life’s “stuff” in very immediate, defined, and absolute terms.
What we were up against was my predisposition (by natural design) to look for the spatial, potential, conceptual possibilities (Right-Brain-Dominant) presented by the game. For me, this was just as legitimate and valid as their perceptions… and I couldn’t understand their refusal to recognize and even respect my perceptions. They interpreted my behavior as me being a total Jerk. And I interpreted their animosities as them being more interested in WINNING a game… than us PLAYING a game together. I saw their behavior as a rejection of our personal interaction. They saw my behavior as a refusal to be part of the community of players. None of us had a clue as to what the actual dynamics at play were. We had no basis of understanding necessary for successful communication.
You may say “That is such a small thing!” To which I would respond that our lives are made up of far more “small things” of daily life than relatively “large” things to be dealt with. I have intentionally chosen a seemingly insignificant life event to illustrate this communication conflict because it is in our mundane and routine interactions that we rehearse and reinforce our habits of thinking about and responding to all of the world around us. It is with repetition and practice that we establish our ways of living among each other. And it is my desire to offer what I consider to be the cornerstone of all successful communication… the absolute reality that we are living amongst folk who have, as their own natural gift, a perspective that may well differ from our own. This is a fact of our creation. It is a wonderful truth of the balance and harmony offered by Life.
So what to do? Simply… inquire! That’s it! Question and listen for indications as to how your interlocutor is perceiving the subject being dealt with… then accommodate their view of the matter by tailoring your presentation of your view in a way that compliments theirs. Determine the tone of their view… and harmonize with that tone. Though you may not understand… respect… their right to their view. In all of the seemingly small things practice this methodology… so that in the event of the larger things, you will be well rehearsed. I can offer no more valuable a treasure for your happy coexistence with your world than this. I present its simplicity… and its wealth as I remain (hopefully far less aggravating), as always, Your constant Friend and willing Servant.
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