If our ability to communicate is what defines us as humans, then why aren’t we better at it? If you consider that something as simple as the “V-sign” hand gesture has completely different meanings depending on where you are – it’s a symbol for peace in the USA, while signaling contempt and rudeness in some other parts of the world – then maybe it’s not so strange that other kinds of communication are equally complicated.

It’s a little ironic that in a time where we have an abundance of methods with which to communicate, we still have the same problems we’ve always had. It doesn’t seem to matter that we have language translation programs at our fingertips, instant information on any topic available by a tap on a screen, and a love connection a swipe away. True communication, as in understanding each other, appears as elusive as ever.

One of the reasons, of course, is that interpersonal communication doesn’t happen in isolation, there is always a context to a message and there are many aspects in play. There is the “sender” and the “receiver” and that which they both bring to the table – cultural backgrounds, age, sex, mood, education, etc. If we are not in tune with the context in which something is being communicated, misinterpretation and misunderstanding are very possible outcomes.

I spent this past week at a volleyball tournament with my teenage daughter. It struck me that the group I was with is a perfect illustration of the difficulty of achieving good, effective communication across cultural divides, while also navigating language barriers.

It turns out that this team has a diverse group of parents from different cultural backgrounds, everyone with a slightly different perspective and emphasis on what’s important, be it in regards to what and how you eat, how you get around, how much you pitch in and what is expected of the kids. The following became clear very quickly: good communication almost always brings people together, whereas poor communication does the opposite.

I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that our week had its fair share of miscommunication, and not infrequently, hurt feelings and bruised egos. Now, you might think I am talking about the teenagers here, but that’s not the case – these were the adults. It’s interesting to note that most misunderstandings started and spread via electronic communication and they were always resolved through face-to-face interactions, where there were opportunities for questions and clarifications.

Perhaps the best thing to keep in mind is that interpersonal communication is indeed complicated and people are not mind readers. Also worth keeping in mind: the rewards of good communication are outstanding — as Rollo May says: “Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.”

By: Felicia Shermis

Quote from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_communication.html

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