Communication: How Hard Can it Be?

My Fellow Wholetonians,

This week’s musing is rather ironic, as the subject matter is communication. In a world of sound bytes, Twitter tweets, Facebook posts, and social media psycho-babble, true communication has become a lost art. Yes, I said, art. Believe it or not, gifted communicators are a rare commodity. Anyone can “communicate” via, social media, but are you really making a connection? If you have ever heard a convicting sermon, been inspired by a motivational speaker, or turned in a stellar workout because of something your personal trainer said, you have experienced the power of communication.

Now here’s my point—we were designed by God to communicate face-to-face. Think about it! Right now I want you to walk over to the nearest mirror and tell me what you see. Chances are, you see someone who looks exactly like you, complete with two eyes in front, an ear on each side of their head, and a mouth in front as well. Amazingly, those three appliances function best when they are facing another being with the same equipment! When your mouth opens and your tongue vibrates, words in the form of sound waves are disbursed and the forward mounted receivers (ears) capture those words. Then, by the look in the other person’s eyes, you can quickly tell if your message was received and how it was perceived. Yet, even with these amazing pieces of equipment, sometimes things can still go wrong … terribly wrong. There is a movie that epitomizes limbic distress via a communication breakdown. The film is titled Cool Hand Luke and it stars Paul Newman and George Kennedy. The iconic line from that film is: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Believe me, dear friends, you don’t have to be an inmate on the Florida chain gang to understand that statement. In fact, most married people understand it just fine! Why? Because every BIG fight you have with your spouse undoubtedly starts with a lack of communication. Here is a story that will illustrate my point. A man I know quite well was shopping with his wife in a department store. Unbeknownst to the man, his wife was having a challenging day due to a physical discomfort. The man was in the sports attire department and spied a 70% sale on lady’s work out clothes and thought his wife would look great in them and went to find her and tell her. This is what he said: “Honey, do you think you are going to be working out anytime soon?” Oops. You see, the man wanted to buy his wife something she would look good in, but the words came out terribly wrong! (Every woman reading this is shaking her head in unbelief right now :)) The wife processed a good intention as a criticism, interpreting his words as, “He thinks I’m fat,” and her response was, let’s just say, unfavorable.

You see, that’s why communicating through social media is merely a “virtual” form of communication. You are not actually using your ears or mouth at all, and if you are angry, you aren't raising your voice, you are typing in bold caps! Our culture is experiencing a famine of healthy communication skills because of our utter dependence upon social media and hand held devices. I understand the convenience and simplicity of mobile phones and I am in no way demonizing them, as our culture demands them. What I am saying is, we cannot compare a digital “hug” to the human touch. I am honored to have this forum to share my heart with you once a week via the Internet, but can you imagine the power of spending an hour over a cup of coffee, talking face to face? When I share Wholetones one on one, or even in a conference setting, the impact is staggering and the listeners rarely leave the edge of their seats!

When I was a boy, our parents taught us the power of dinnertime conversation; we learned about our family heritage and each other in that nightly hour around a home cooked meal and we were not allowed to miss it. If you visit my home today, my wife will most likely hug you and ask you to place your phone in the basket by the door. She says, “Spend time with the ones you love.” You know, she’s right! I am often guilty of spending more time on my phone “communicating” than I do actually talking with the people around me who mean the most and deserve my undivided attention. A while back, my phone rang and I answered and there was an awkward silence until the voice on the other end said, “Oh, um, I didn’t think you would pick up, I just wanted to leave a message.” My response was “Well, you got me, sorry to disappoint you.” You see, what we had was a failure to communicate! It is my deepest desire in the near future to get back on the road and meet some of you face to face, and actually hug your neck and tell you how much I appreciate your support and prayers, and your love of Wholetones. Until then, I’ll keep writing every Tuesday, and do my best to share my heart through this venue.

God bless you,
Michael S. Tyrrell