Monday, 26 March 2012

The Art of Communication

I attended a very interesting workshop a couple of weeks ago on Communication. Did you know, research has shown that people derive only about 7% of the meaning of a communication from the words the speaker uses. About 38% is based on tone of voice, and 55% from the speaker’s body language.

Verbal and non-verbal communications are interpreted by the speaker and listener on both a conscious and unconscious level.

Despite the convenience of modern communication, I think in many situations it puts us at a disadvantage. Without the tone of the voice and the expression on your face, will someone really understand exactly what you meant in that email or on that text message? Sure, texting is convenient. And as much as anyone else, I've been guilty of sending off a message when I'm hurt or angry or upset, or even just midly annoyed, not realizing the impact it will have on the other person when their phone buzzes.

FaceBook and other social media sites can be greatly beneficial to us. The other day, I reconnected with someone who had been one of my best friends in high school. I never would have found her otherwise, we live in different provinces, (neither of us living where we grew up), she got married and changed her last name. So when an opportunity like that comes along to reconnect, it's amazing. But there's always a flipside. Are people quite so fond of FaceBook when your recent ex is posting pictures with his new love interest for all the world to see? Or when you have to change your "relationship status" after yet another failed romantic attempt? (I think that button is silly by the way, I never use it!) Or if your friend has a new baby, there's no urgency to rush to the hospital. You can just "like" the picture.

Don't even get me started on online dating, it might work for some, but if you read this blog at all, you already know how I feel about it.

Ever had someone break up with you on text message? I have. Or had something tragic happen and a close friend sends you a "u ok?". There's an element of laziness that has crept into our culture when people can't pick up the phone (or...here's a thought: talk in person?) when something important needs to be discussed.

I'm still pursuing my ambitions with writing, I'd love to write a book someday, and I have a big file on my computer with semi-completed chapters. (It's a good story, stay tuned!) As many people who know me can attest to, communicating what I think and how I feel is usually not very difficult for me. But part of the reason I always close that document to open up my blog page, is the same reason most people decide not to follow their dreams - this is the easier way. I used to write for hours when I was younger, I've always loved it, but I've become lazy.

That doesn't mean I need to leave things this way. We can all accomplish whatever it is we set out to do, with perseverance, hard work and a sense of humour. (Maybe not anything we set out to do. Trying to marry George Clooney seems like a sure failure everytime, even if you're an actress, model or professional wrestler who hasn't turned 32 yet!) In the end, if we don't even try, there is no chance of failure, but also no chance of success.

So in keeping with moving on in life, and following my ambitions, I've enrolled in a Communications program at a University here in Toronto. It's completely terrifying to go back to school now, after being out for so long, but a lot of things that seem scary are actually fun and along with the end result of accomplishing what it was you set out to do, you have the added satisfaction of overcoming the fear that almost prevented the whole thing from happening.

I'm also going to make some little changes to get back to communicating in a more personal way. I bought a box of thank you notes. Now, when someone does something kind, I write one. And send it. In the mail. (Yes, even if it's someone I see regularly.) I pick up the phone if I can and call someone when they're feeling happy about something great that has happened or upset about something bad.

And I am going to try once and for all to kick the habit of texting/emailing people negative messages. It's always best to discuss in person. That way they can look in your eyes, see your smile and even if you are justly hurt at a situation that's happened, the 93% of communication coming across in your tone of voice and body language will let them know you still love them, forgive them, and are simply looking for a solution.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Coming full circle, ending up somewhere completely different

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T. S. Eliot

I've never been big on exploration. I love routine, I had the same friends since I was in elementary school. I liked doing the same things, with the same people all week and every weekend. I had never even quit a job until I was 27. (There were a great many things I had never tried at 27.) I would just stay until the company downsized, or my position was no longer necessary, and I'd move on then. Not before. I liked going to the same restaurant for a weekend date, ordering the same thing I always got there. I stayed with my first real boyfriend almost 10 years. I married him, even though we were never really in love. Change terrified me.

There were a certain set of beliefs thrust upon me at an early age, and I bought into that one hundred percent. I accepted what I was told at face value, and worked as hard as I could to make a success of that lifestyle. I did everything I possibly could to further the cause, to the point of breakdown, exhaustion and disillusionment.

Once I rejected those beliefs, and ended up broke, homeless, jobless, friendless and divorced, it was a shock. I had no idea who I was anymore. What was I without my friends, the group, my special position within it? So reluctantly, I started exploring. I'll be the first to admit a lot of that "exploration" was actually just self-destructive behaviour. Once you leave an established way of life, with a rule for everything, and you realize you don't believe it anymore, all of a sudden there are no rules.

So you try new things. I'm probably lucky I didn't end up dead (or worse). It wasn't for lack of trying.

But for all my pushing myself outside my comfort zone, within the past year, I've come almost full circle. No, I'm not back at exactly the same place I started. I make the rules now for what is "good" and "acceptable" for my life. But it does feel familiar, a lot more like the old me than the "interim" me I'd been exploring. My moral compass is not pointing in exactly the same direction it used to, but it's pretty close.

I watched a movie yesterday about a girl that went through the same experience I did, being shunned by her family and friends for deciding she loved someone who had a different faith and belief system. It was so familiar, yet the whole story seemed so crazy, so controlling, so completely against every fiber of my morality today that I almost couldn't believe I used to be one of those people. Not bad people, just so completely misled.

I understand those who have a deep devotion to God. But it's sad that so many people who say they love Him, live a life so completely opposite to all the values history tells us Jesus taught and lived by. He never shunned anyone, but spent his time with the sinners and downtrodden.

I don't know how this post became about Jesus. It wasn't my intention. :) I'm not even sure I believe in him anymore. I just know that despite how drastically life has changed, I'm happy I made it through the fire and managed to land on my feet. It helped having a few people who believed I would. And Eliot is right, once we come full circle, we are back at the same place we started, but it looks entirely different. And different is good. :)