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..:: Communication ::..


Alan Schneider


               Communication is the core process of human affairs – the one inevitable feature of all our lives.  Even when no apparent external interaction takes place, the subtle internal events of learning and perceptual shifts still do take place, as the consequences of intimate personal communion within ourselves.  We may perceive this as occurring among or between our personal sense of self and the elements of our extended consciousness (which we may call “God”, or “Angels”, or “Spirit Guides”, or “Archetypes”, perhaps), or involving physical sensations, dreams, fantasies, ideas, or emotions.  We may not even perceive the process of internal communication at all – simply being distracted by the rush of external events surrounding us – or may choose to ascribe any or all of these events to any number of external levels of manifestation, if this makes us more comfortable with the process, but communication remains its focus regardless of how we envision the circumstances.  

             The very act of a “me” perceiving anything, even subconsciously, entails the dichotomy of a subject myself – interacting perceptually with an object the perception – however obliquely, and this is implicitly communicative.  There is no such thing as a meaningless perception or event – everything carries information and messages for the perceiver.  This relationship only breaks down in the extreme case of the experience (as opposed to perception) of the non-dual consciousness associated with Buddhist Satori, knowable only in the deepest states of meditation.  That this condition has only been experienced by a fortunate few among us may be taken for granted, and it defies description, and therefore communication, in any case.  In all other conditions of experience, we are left with the subject-object platform. This is even the case with the experience of pure chaos – we as subject observers are still in contact with the experience of something chaotic as an observed phenomenon. 

            One of the Primary Axioms of Communication is that communication is inevitable and unavoidable – considering the many forms of information transfer from sender to receiver, including the nonverbal modalities of facial expression, posture, gate, gestures, dress, display of social status symbols, and, most significantly, what is left unsaid (but still implied) in a verbal interaction – the omnipresent nature of communication behavior is abundantly clear.  

            The issue remains that many human attempts at communication are unproductive at best.  This can be attributed to several factors, including the transmission from sender to receiver (and vise versa) of conflicting simultaneous messages (i.e. my voice says I approve of your conduct, but my posture expresses disapproval), the willful attempt of either sender or receiver to practice deception, inadvertent misunderstanding of message content that is not resolved during the interaction, and a largely subconscious matrix of assumptions and conditioning on the part of both sender and receiver that actively prevents understanding of the message content from the outset.  This latter deserves special attention here, because it accounts for the great bulk of communication failure, including those types of “failure” known as active hostility and conflict.  

            We all spend our physical existences as functional isolates, encased in our little prisons of flesh in solitary confinement for the duration, with only the senses, language, interaction, and culture to bridge the enormous perceptual gaps between us.  And whether we are born with this or not, we all seem to have an apparent roster of ordained experiences that we tend to encounter repeatedly until we have learned some deep lesson present in their content.  I prefer the term “Karma” for this supposed condition, and this Karma includes birth into our culture of origin, our parental genetic inputs, and familial and kinship associations. All of these produce a unique individual within a cultural mosaic, inevitably confronted with a series of moral challenges that will hopefully be resolved successfully into the associated phenomenon of Dharma – a stable, integrated condition of peaceful internal enlightenment and external grace.  In a sense, the overall human Karma could be described as “isolation challenged with communication”, as we attempt to reach out to each other as the social creatures that we are.  

            Our relative levels of communication skills are an area that certainly could be viewed through the lens of Karma.  Many of us do not even know that the area of “communication skills” exists at all, let alone have any idea of how to improve our functioning in this area, or how very critical it is to our experiences in and of the world.  Forthwith, I am offering a possible format for our effective use of communication with each other in the following paragraphs. 

            When encountering another human being in a communication context, before the first words or glances are even exchanged, we really need to be aware of how we are responding to the person in question.  Do we feel pleased or offended by their aspect and appearance?  Are we feeling rushed or preoccupied with something?  Do we perhaps even feel threatened by the person?  And, most importantly, is there something that we want from them as an outcome of the interaction, and, if so, what?  All of the former will affect our mindset for the communication, biasing our expectation for the outcome, and determining our approach to the event.  Please stop and think right now for a moment how often you actually make these basic self-assessments before entering into dialog with another.  If you do not even know where you are coming from regarding another, how can you expect to know where you want to go with them?  Any time you can be aware of your feelings and mindset going into even the simplest, task-oriented communication you should do so.  If nothing else, you will learn a lot about yourself in this process, and that is the most basic element of human communication!           

            Either unrealistically positive expectations and mindsets, or unrealistically negative ones, can represent the beginning of a communication failure.  At least we can be aware of what both of these are before initiating an interaction, and may even be capable of forming an approximately accurate estimate of their realism.  Such estimates can almost never be extremely accurate, because they involve so much personal supposition and assumption on our parts, but they are a significant part of the pre-communication scenario, and thus need to be born in mind.  Whether or not we will get what we want from an interaction, we at least need to know what we want, have a guess at the likelihood of success, and know how we feel about all of this before going into the fray.  The more consciously aware of these factors we can be at the outset, the better positioned for successful interaction we will be. 

            Hopefully having thus canvassed ourselves, we can then approach the communication from the most aware perspective possible, and begin the exchange.  The first words offered are very important.  People are generally quite sensitive to each other, regardless of how they might appear to be, and our first words, and particularly facial expressions and voice intonation while delivering those words, speak volumes to others.  If we are feeling negatively disposed towards the other, it is important to minimize the impact of this in the communication if we want to experience a favorable outcome.  In such a case, the less said, looked, and implied, the better.  This applies to everything negative from traffic tickets to nasty arguments – keep the interaction to a minimum, and bail out as soon as the task involved is essentially “complete”, even if that is evidently not very complete at all!  In the case where we are feeling positively disposed, it is necessary to be aware of the possibility that the other person may not be feeling that way about us, for any number of reasons, and thus may not respond in kind.  If a financial implication is involved, we may even be leaving ourselves open to the possibility of interpersonal deception and manipulation as a final outcome of an interaction with a skilled social technician, who may feign a positive response to take advantage of us! Particularly in relational communication environments, where the possibility of long term involvements is significant, the best rule is to proceed slowly and cautiously in making any assessments or commitments.  There is no test as reliable as the test of time...so take your time.  

            Once a mutually positive communication environment has been established, the field is open for exploration of possible outcomes.  This is the best case scenario in communication dynamics, whether in the casual short task situation or the extended relational one noted above, and in all cases in between, including those “extended relational” environments known as “gainful employment”.  In terms of positive outcome situations, the golden caveat is mutuality – the communication must be honest enough and effective enough to leave no lingering unresolved questions for either or any party involved.  The regularity of interaction is also key here – at least weekly and preferably daily intervals of sincere interaction are the best bet for producing all around satisfaction among those involved. 

              The general background condition of a culture, society, or group determines the likelihood of successful, productive communication events occurring. Social environments that are characterized by deception, judgementalism, open or veiled hostility, hyper-competition, greed, or resentment will not foster effective communication, while environments characterized by openness, positive regard, compassion, consideration, mutual support, love, and understanding will.  It is our challenge as responsible individuals to identify and foster the positive social conditions noted above (and this is by no means a complete listing) to pave the way for an enlightened human condition closer to the Heart, and centered in the Soul.


                                                                                - With Love, Alan -

                                                               (Copyright 2009, by Alan Schneider)


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