Communication Don'ts


     "Think of communication as the exchange of information through a channel. Whatever blocks or distorts that channel interferes with communication. These would be communication "don'ts." To think of what might block your channels of communication, consider this old teaching story.

     "A group of blind men are brought into a room with an elephant. They are asked to examine the elephant and to tell what it is like truly. The one at the tail pronounces "an elephant is like a great rope." The one touching a leg says "no, an elephant is like a great tree." Then the one at the belly "you're both wrong--an elephant is like a boulder." And the ear is like a fan, the tusk is like a sword, and the trunk is like a snake; and the blind men fall to arguing bitterly over what is the nature of the elephant.

     "What is the nature of an elephant? From our more educated vantage point, we can see that the blind men are all right--in their way, and, all wrong. We can also see that if they stopped arguing and began to share with each other what their respective pieces felt like, they might put together the larger mystery which is the elephant.

     "Now imagine they agree to communicate, but start out with statements such as the following. "Well this part feels like it is messed up." "My piece feels like a perfect reflection of polar opposites simultaneously manifesting." "I once had an experience similar to this." We would shake our heads in frustration, because they are not getting far. Though they are willing to embrace that each has a piece of the larger whole, their communications are such distortions of their experience they are practically impossible to understand. Their manner of communication is blocking the exchange of helpful information.

     "It is much the same in relationship. The way it feels to you is not exactly the way it feels to your partner. And the options are similar to those of the blind men. Either you can argue that the whole relationship is the way your piece feels, or you can share what yours feels like, listen to what your partner has to say, and perhaps piece together the larger mystery which is your relationship. But you must take care to avoid muddying your communication channel with practices that distort your messages. If you can keep from doing that, you may make headway toward fathoming the mystery. There is a compelling reason to do this, for sooner or later find that you both feel the heart of the elephant that courses through all its parts. Same heart. This is love. This is why communication facilitates love. And why anything that interferes with communication--which blocks or distorts the communication channel--interferes with the experience of love. Here are common blocks or distortions to avoid."
 2000 Mark Shafer  

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