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Communication Is an Art

“Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” Chris Tucker’s character Carter yelled this at Lee played by Jackie Chan in the movie Rush Hour trying to bridge the communication gap between them. Well, it was more a language barrier, but what Carter understood is that good communication is crucial to having a meaningful and relevant relationship. It’s the cornerstone of any lasting relationship – whether they are fictional cops or our real life associates.

Understandably, good communication is an art and like any other art, not all of us are naturally gifted in it. We need to train ourselves to become adept at successfully communicating. Most particularly, we want to communicate well to those who matter most in our lives – our loved ones. I thought about this because of a situation in my life and reflected on my need to really work on my communication skills.

So really, what is communication? It’s our way of exchanging thoughts and intentions with others. Good communication provides an exchange with clear meaning and understanding. Good communication is a two-way street. In general, the longer we know someone the easier it should be to communicate with them clearly or at least establish some type of mutual understanding,

It’s in this “getting to know” stage of a relationship where we need to work out the nuances of what will become our communication style. Depending on the person, this can be challenging. For instance, there may be deeply established differences in communication styles and it may take much time and effort to reconcile these effectively and comfortably, or perhaps, as in the case with Chris and Jackie in Rush Hour there may be cultural or language barriers to overcome.

When we want to establish more than an acquaintanceship with someone, the way we communicate becomes very important. Not only what we communicate, but how we communicate plays a big part in effective communication. Keep in mind communication is not only verbal. We communicate feelings and emotions in our body language and facial expressions too.

When we’re happy for example, we express it not only through our words and tone of voice, but also our gestures and facial expressions. Our body language is more open and embracing when we’re feeling good. On the other hand, when we’re angry our words and tone become harsh and our body rigid. Our brow may furrow and our lips curl. Our voice and body language all communicating to observers we are not happy about something.

When it comes to intimate relationships, people are quick to pick up on even the most subtle nuances in communication. Is she happy to see me? Did I make her mad? Does he really care about me? Why did he say that? Due to our hypersensitivity in relationships, we may tend to exaggerate the meaning behind some verbal and non-verbal communications. We need to be careful of doing that. If we’re not we may find ourselves making mountains out of molehills and blowing things out of proportion.

One of the keys to effective communication is to stop and think before we talk. I can’t tell you how often I wish I’d applied this advice before it was too late! Not unlike Newton’s third law of physics, every action does have an equal and opposite reaction, or as applied to communication what we say and how we say it will provoke some type of reaction. So, think before saying it. Is it worth it? Will it build up or tear down?

Once we put our words out there we can’t take them back and the reaction we get may be well deserved – be it good or bad. However, if our words or actions cause pain, the pain caused may be hard to heal. If we find it difficult to think clearly because of emotion, a good rule of thumb to follow is to keep our mouth shut. Someone once said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Good advice to follow – but don’t hold on to anger too long. It’ll only make matters worse. Let the person know you need time but propose a time to talk. That will give you time to consider the best approach in communication when you do meet.

Good communication is not easy for most of us. We’re not born effective communicators. We’re taught as we grow. To be good at it takes some hard work on our part. Communication is an art. The beauty of it is like any other art, if we work hard enough, we can develop skill at it. In that scene from the Rush Hour movie, after Carter yelled the words above – Lee just smiled. He understood exactly what Carter was saying – and thus began a meaningful and relevant relationship. Well, at least one to last through two more sequels. 

© Marc Townsend

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