“So the whole war is because we can’t talk to each other.”
― Ender’s Game
One would think, in a world where communication is constant, our every thought broadcast with the tap of a keyboard and a click of a button, we would experience an earth of unity and alignment. However, it often seems that we have never been so divided. Why is that?
Are our beliefs so polar, our hearts so jaded, our desires so contrary, that even living in companionable disagreement is impossible?
It is as if we wish to blast those who believe differently than us off the face of the earth, for living in different hemispheres of our globe is not distant enough. Sure we will always have differences, but why are these differences so unbearably irritating, that even one word, one single word with no meaning, can send us into a fiery rage of indignation and violence?
We are horrible communicators.
We are. We all are. This entire world, and everyone in it.
Between the things we believe but do not say, and the things that we say but do not mean, we are a mess of confusion and misconstrued intentions. We make judgments quickly and decisively, often only skimming the surface in our research. We present only half of ourselves to the world, and get angry when others fail to understand us fully.
Communication is hard. It is work. And none of us seem to know how to do it properly.
This is a jewel for storytellers. Miscommunication, or often times, no communication, creates unbelievable tension between characters, tension that should not exist, should they have simply understood each other. You want to drive your readers crazy? The good kind of crazy where they want to yell at the characters, but keep reading more because they have to see if it all works out? Throw in some miscommunication.
Take my book for example, I spend a great deal of my time frustrated with my main character. Why? Because he is a teenage boy, naive in the art of listening, who is constantly damaging the heart of his best friend. He never intends to, in fact, he has one of the most loyal and caring hearts of anyone I have ever known, but time and time again, he inflicts pain.
He is a horrible communicator.
He is exposed to his best friend’s vulnerability, her fear, her past that has left her nothing more than a broken soul within a cracked shell, and he refuses to accept and understand that his image of her was wrong all along, misconstruing all that she says into this wrong perception. He is so wrapped up in his own pain that he will not ask or listen to hers.
We are all guilty of this in our own lives. We are emotional beings, creative beings, whose strong feelings and imaginations concoct pictures of ourselves and others, that all conversations are skewed to fit within. We imagine tension where there is none, often polluting the image we hold of ourselves or others in the process.
How do we fix this?
We will not fix the world, but we can work on ourselves. Take a lesson from Tal and Ky. Most of their tension could be resolved with these simple steps:
- If they took each other’s words at face value. Even if you think there is some hidden meaning behind their words, or the twitch of their mouth, or the arch of their eyebrow, try hard to believe that people mean what they say.
- If they listened attentively. If you are going to believe what other people say, you need to hear it exactly as they say it. If you are confused, ask them to clarify.
- If they said what they actually meant. People are not mind readers. Do not get angry if they don’t see that your words were false, or if they don’t understand you fully, without sharing yourself fully.
Imagine if you were a character in a book. What tension exists between you and the other characters? If readers were flipping through your pages, following your story, where would they grow frustrated? Where would they be yelling at you to open your eyes and your ears to see what is TRUE in front of you? Don’t let miscommunication run your relationships, for often it will run you right into the ground.
Hopefully one day, Tal will learn these lessons too, and I will finally be able to enjoy writing him again!
Once again great job Rachel! You point to truth unabashedly and insightfully!
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“Imagine if you were a character in a book. What tension exists between you and the other characters? “
I will have to think about this for a while. Very insightful. Thank you
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