Often in life there comes a time when simple interest wades into the realm of the romantic and encounters uncertainty as to what is meant by a comment or what intent was behind an action. There is no way to communicate in such a way as to remove all doubt or potential for error. We exist in others’ minds as internalized projections of our own narratives, reshaped and molded through the lens of the worldview and assumptions of the other person. We simply do not exist for others the way we do for ourselves.

Communication is at core about, as even the root word notes, communion or the interchange of thoughts/emotions. Another way to look at communion is the union of community, where community means any group beyond an individual. In other words, when you engage in communication with another you manifest a world together, a product of the individual interaction with information, the history of individual experiences, how all of that is recalled for each person within the present and the internalized perception of the other person’s actions.

Issues of miscommunication, where what is said is not what is heard, can be addressed in part by a principle I’ve taken to calling “gap-filling.” (Mentioned in entries “Absence of Knowledge Is Not Presence of Truth” and “Filling in the Gaps: Communication Failure in Relationships”) Working to change ignorance to knowing, methods of rationality and dialogue are seen as inadequate, leading to the person simply filling in the ignorance with their own narrative. In practice, something has been said that doesn’t match an assumption and one’s internal vision of what is true provides a quicker feeling of security than introspection, reflection and speculative inquiry. 

The practice of “gap-filling” often occurs in relationships when one’s insecurity triggers have been flipped. Seeking safety and attempting to avoid suffering, people gravitate towards what is previously known, what most easily fits with their core vision of relational reality. Examples are numerous and most easily noticed when on the outside looking in, noting how often someone comes to an understanding that you, being on the outside of the relationship, had seen already, whether it be that someone has been cheating or had fallen in love. Since all of us at one time or another are on the inside of those connections we see of others, rueful humility should direct us to acknowledge that we too have done the same.

Communication or communal-creation is a beautiful and powerful facet of human existence. There is no greater feeling than that engendered by manifesting new worlds when bonding with another. That feeling can blind us to the true complexity of what is happening each and every time we seek to continue building that bond, from chats over coffee to group gatherings to family dinners, romantic dates and sex. The effortlessness with which these actions contribute to the building of the worlds will come skidding to a stop when the accumulation of filled-in gaps becomes overwhelming.

Communication is not two separate and context-free individual entities lobbing words at each other, it is an interplay of energy and information within a context-full reality. Have you ever looked at a couple and marveled at the way they finish their sentences or simply seem to “get” one another and yet others don’t grasp the exchange? This is why. Recognizing the inevitable creation involved in communication will help in all connections, in whatever form they take.

 

© David Teachout


 

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