Yesterday I was reminded by a friend I had talked about doing a year-end blog post on how 2011 was the year I learned to communicate. I finally started publicly expressing myself in words by starting this blog, I took a stab at a novel, and I went back to keeping a journal.
All of those written activities helped me in some good ways: I find putting words down helps give me clarity around confusing issues. The public writing also connects me with others who can help by adding insights, or just by offering words of encouragement, compassion, and loving support.
The writing also gives me confidence in my ability to express myself. There is something gratifying in knowing I am connecting in ways that might be variously humorous or heartbreaking or both at once. And I hope my writing in turn might help some who are facing similar things. Thanks to all who have given me feedback — that’s really what it’s all about, after all.
I also learned that words can hurt. There have been times things I’ve written, both publicly and privately, have made people feel bad, usually unintentionally but sometimes not. I talked about this in a previous post, and it’s something I still struggle with. It’s part of the reason I’ve not shared more of the novel I’m working on. I’ll have to figure out what to do about that.
It seems part of the key is to approach writing as you’d approach any action, with an honorable intention that is loving, kind, and compassionate. But is there a way to tell the stories we so want to tell without the risk of making anyone unhappy? I would love to know how other writers, both fiction and non-fiction writers who tell stories with recognizable characters from their real lives, deal with this question.
I learned to communicate better, with mixed results, in relationships as well. The main thing I learned is that communication is essential, but it’s also not enough. Sometimes it’s too much, in fact. I found myself falling into the delusion that talking through problems was the same as solving them — and it’s easy to get caught up in the euphoria of seeing seeming progress — but talk without action is just talk.
I learned that words can heal, but they can also harm; and was reminded how true it is that communication depends on both the giver and the receiver. There are so many ways for communication to break down. Loving words can ricochet back when the intended recipient deflects them like so much unwanted mail returned to sender, or sometimes two people are just not on the same plane, literally not getting what the other is saying. Sometimes silence speaks loudest and hurts most.
So, what’s a communicator to do? Keep trying, but not too hard.