The Pervasive Unpredictability of Communication (#20)

Communication is a tricky thing.  I’ve noticed that as articulate as I am, I’m often misunderstood and it’s usually my fault.  When I speak, I use self-created colloquialisms so that doesn’t help with clarity.  I should have introduction cards to all those who pass by: Hi, my name is Jacqui and I have OCD and a made up language- just kidding.   I think for most of us, it’s hard to communicate your feelings when you are emotionally invoked.  Yet, what I failed to notice before and only see now is that it’s even harder to hear what’s being communicated when distraught.  What does this ridiculously long and cryptic sentence mean?  Let me explain…

One of the issues with communication is that it is based off interpretation.  Even the most articulate person can be misinterpreted due to body language, inflection, circumstances as well as the listener’s understanding.  This was highlighted for me when my mother’s health continued to fail.  She kept apologizing.  I asked her what she was apologizing for and most of the time, she was apologizing for being so sick. However, she also was apologizing for our past fights, for her perceptions of my childhood and all the other guilty thoughts that she unnecessarily believed was a wrong doing.  I, of course, told her there was no reason to apologize, but forgave her anyways to give her peace. 

What I didn’t realize at the time is that Jerry, my mom’s soul mate and husband, had never asked mom why she was apologizing.  He thought she was apologizing for needing constant help; for him, it was silly and unnecessary because he never minded attending to her.  He would rub her head and kiss her forehead, telling her that there was nothing to apologize for.  The thing is that most of the time, she was apologizing for feeling like a burden but sometimes, she was apologizing for her role in their past issues. 

No one is the bad guy here and no one is immune to the blurriness that comes with tough times.  What do you do?  You forgive yourself, actually.  All we can do is know that we are human and with that comes mistakes.  Communication is an ever evolving process because it’s not just one person participating- unless you talk to yourself in the mirror, that is.  It develops as your ability to understand what the listener actually heard, much less remembered develops- anyone who has ever played the game telephone knows exactly what I’m saying.  Mistakes in what we hear is what I call being human because it’s as pervasive as it is unintentional so give yourself a break.  Consider it a lesson learned and move on.  

At first, it was a blow to Jerry to think mom was asking for forgiveness of their past- minor incidences, really, if you ask me.  He felt like he missed out on something as important as giving her peace.  Sitting there, slumped in his chair, his remorse hung from him.  It was heartbreaking to watch.

I wasn’t sure what I could say but to remind him that from her perspective, she saw it completely different.  Mom thought that he understood her apology and forgave her.  He gave her the peace that she so desired and desperately, needed.  When I pointed this out, Jerry’s posture straightened as he stared into the orchards from his front porch. Hypnotically, he began to smile.  And, that’s how perspective can change back in a heartbeat.  Do you see what I mean when I say communication is tricky?  Welcome to the fun house that is life as we know it!