The Simple Act of Communication

“We are more connected than ever, so why does it seem we struggle so much with the ability to honestly communicate with each other?”

My friend sitting across from me lowered her coffee cup and threw her hands in the air for emphasis.

“I mean, it’s ridiculous!  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, blah, blah blah, and I can’t get a simple ‘yes, we’re coming,’ ‘no, we’re not coming’  or ‘still trying to work it out, will get back to you in the next week’ RSVP to the graduation party I’m throwing for my daughter!  Most of the offenders have been family friends for years, and I see that they still have time to post on social media, but not let me know if they can make something they’ve been exclusively invited to!”

I shot her a knowing smile.
She looked at me earnestly.

“I remember when I was a kid.  My mom would have me write thank you cards for everything.  Nothing offered was ever allowed to go unacknowledged.”

“Ha!  It was like that in my family, too,” I said.

My friend cocked her head to the side.  “Do you think, perhaps, too much ease in communication has gotten us to the point where we don’t know how to communicate effectively?  We’ve become sloppy and seem to take our ability to connect for granted.”

“I know we’re busy,” she continued.  “But are we really?  Or are we busy with the wrong stuff?  Are we prioritizing our communications?  I know I’m guilty of it, too.  You get caught up on Facebook and the next thing you know, you’re late for a call or a meeting.  Then you have to apologize.  With technology, I find I need to really be mindful of where I’m putting my time, efforts and intentions.”

I could see her getting more contemplative.

“I actually had to stop myself, the other day, from answering a text when I was at dinner with my daughter whom I hadn’t seen for a full week because she was away for spring break.  I found, in that moment, I was more focused on an ongoing conversation with a workmate about weekend plans than I was with my daughter sitting across from me!”

I looked at her and then said, simply, “it’s great you became aware of that fact.”

She smiled.  “Yeah, I guess you’re right.  I’m really trying.  It’s just so much easier to give into the habit of constant communication through technology than to be aware of how to use it more intentionally and focus, instead, on being present to what and who is right in front of me.  Sometimes, I think we hide behind technology so that it looks like we’re connecting, but we can really avoid true connection.”

“Hmmm,” I responded, “I think that is, indeed, an issue.”

“I mean, it’s so easy to use excuses not to show up for one another these days and then try to make up for it with a couple of likes on Facebook or love emojis via text.”

I laughed then looked at my friend for a long moment before replying.

“I believe many people these days are struggling, first and foremost, with a sense of belonging to themselves.  They are disconnected from their own true nature and purpose, and so it makes it deeply challenging to truly connect with other people.  Because one of our human needs is to have love and connection with others, we connect in whatever ways we can.”

“Even if it’s superficially through social media, a text or a quick email,” my friend added.

I smiled at her.  “I think genuine communication can come through a text, email or social media if that’s the intention.  I do feel, however, that the sheer amount of technologically-based communication that we receive in a day makes it challenging to not only have the time and energy to connect with people from a place of presence and intentionality, but to even want to.  It can create a pattern of communication overkill that affects the way in which we share our thoughts and feelings with others, and in many cases with the people in our lives who matter the most.”

My friend looked at me closely, studying my face.

“The act of expression can be challenging for people, I said, finally.
“Choosing our words and using our language to convey our personal thoughts and feelings can be a big trigger for many.  In this case, it becomes easier to just keep things to short responses to another’s communication, reaching out superficially or not saying anything at all.  We can still feel like we are connected to others through quick comments or by hitting the ‘like’ button, but we don’t have to truly invest ourselves in deeper and more meaningful communication.”

My friend nodded, slowly.  “I think one of the biggest reasons people struggle to say what they are thinking and feeling is that they are fearful of offending or hurting the other person.”

“Yes,” I replied, “I do, too. And this usually ends up making things worse, in the long run.  No communication, for example, often leads to miscommunication because people are left to their assumptions.  When we can realize that it’s possible to speak truth AND be loving as we do it, we begin to learn what it takes to create real intimacy.”

My friend sat quietly, and I continued.

“Intimacy isn’t simply something for romantic couples.  It’s the ability to share and respond in such a way that we say to the other ‘here’s who I am.  I am openly choosing to be vulnerable with you because I want you to truly see me.  I want to share with you in a way that’s real, and I would like the same from you.’  Intimacy allows for authentic relationship to form.  It permits us to experience true love and connection.”

Smiling and nodding, my friend stated, “so, we, as a culture, are intimacy challenged.”

“Yes, I believe we are. Yet when people, like you, begin to question this and take the time to look at and act on improving their own behaviors, reasons and actions around communication, we will see things change.”

“Perhaps,” responded my friend with a sigh.

I smiled at her and winked.  “And in the meantime, you can choose to reach out and communicate with those you are waiting on for RSVPs for your daughter’s graduation party.  Model what open, loving and direct communication looks like for them.”

“You’re right!”  my friend laughed.
“I’ll message them on Facebook!”