By Kim Saffran
I have long wondered about the ways in which we communicate with each other. There are also many layers to the complexities of communication and our methods for messaging, so there is much to unpack.
We have information. Whether it is of a personal nature or otherwise, we seek out ways to impart this to others. How we choose or don’t choose to do so has a direct impact on not only our desire to be understood but, sometimes even more importantly, how it is received. I am a proponent of communication. I value the time and effort it takes to reach me and I take great care in composing words that will heal, tone that will settle and intentions that will illustrate respect for my audience. At least I try. I may not succeed all the time but in order to reach, connect and inform, I fall under the category of “continual learner.” It wasn’t always this way and I believe this is where a lot of people find themselves at a crossroads.
It is frightening, at times, to speak our truth, but messaging becomes even more so when it lands with either a thud or with such uncertainty that meeting its original purpose may get lost forever. Of course, this is also contingent on our intention. Do we seek to help or harm? Does it flow from a place of warmth, further connecting us or do we seek to convey our own suffering, creating further division. In a world where one article, such as this, cannot possibly solve our society’s propensity for hiding and its unwillingness to “show” in a manner that denotes acceptance and recognition, perhaps it can shed a little light on the choices we make: do we send our message, or don’t we?
Too often, our actions are indicative of our histories. For example, I believe that for those who were embraced for their individuality, their aspirations and gifts to the world, messaging and communicating ones needs, most likely, had been received well, perhaps, even celebrated. Still, for others, those messages may have been met derisively, maybe with outright dismissal and rejection. For the latter, this can lead to lifelong triggers of inaction, thereby paralyzing any attempts for inclusion, equity and to be held lovingly simply for who you are. It is also this dismissal and rejection that may fortify the intent of some to cause harm, and it is words that can sometimes sting far more than any outward physical confrontation. So, the pain we feel is the pain we manifest and the love we feel, is the love we exhibit. There is a world between them, however, and I believe it is incumbent upon us to bridge this ever-widening gap with whatever tools we have—or the ones we seek to learn and use—in order to further connect to those and the world around us.
Let’s take texting. I am not a fan. Like many others, I do so out of necessity. As you may have experienced or relayed to others, there is much to be lost in a message such as tone which, when verbally conversing with another, can be felt immediately. You will know anger, kindness, snark, concern or any one of a host of thoughts and emotions. So, without the use of emojis, capital letters and multiple punctuation marks, most times there is really no way to gauge true feelings of others. Greater still is the possibility—or rather likelihood—that you may not even receive a message or response at all. I liken this to “non-communication as a form of communication.” Also, not a fan. For those who are sensitive to the actions of others, dropping out of a conversation (even a text conversation) can be debilitating for the receiver. It leaves us wondering and, depending on our propensity for rumination, questioning ourselves, our actions, our impact, sometimes even our worth.
Please let it be known that you have the capacity to soothe and to heal. You also have this same capacity to confuse and cause harm. In a world where our choices have become continually simplified for the sake of our convenience, if we are afforded extra time due to these simplifications, should we not take advantage of this precious resource for the good it can illustrate, especially for the sake of another human? I wish the answer were a resounding “yes,” but experience has shown me that in the time it takes to perform even the simplest of kindnesses, we tend to seek out other forms of busyness as a means of pacifying our immediate needs.
Too often, we exist in limited increments of time. For context, say we forego a response to another, perhaps as a result of schedules, responsibilities, of trying to keep up with it all. Should we fail to connect simply because our window of exchange time has elapsed? And, on what has the window of time for a response been established? By choosing not to respond, we are sending a message and, not surprisingly, it is quite clear: those with whom we were communicating are now those whom we are no longer choosing. There’s a sting in that.
I have been on both sides, but I am more a communicator. Sometimes, it has been at my own peril but whether from need or from empathy, I forge ahead. As the continual learner I am, I have softened my messaging over the years. Responses are care-full and also designed with the recipient in mind. How will it land? How would I respond to such a message?
These are the things I tap into when tapping on my phone’s (or my laptop’s) keyboards. These are the things I hope most will bear in mind when considering whether a response may be warranted. It is, trust me. It may not be easy but it is one of those simple little kindnesses, the good that can come from you—we need much more of them.
Kim Saffran is a health educator and program manager. A nature lover and continual learner, she seeks to help empower others live their best lives.
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