A shared language

Something I have been thinking about quite a lot lately is how we can tell someone something with complete openness and honesty, and they can still receive something totally misleading.

Effective communication is about so much more than telling the truth. We need to be able to anticipate how the other person will hear our words based upon where they’re operating from, and alter our message accordingly. Which sounds dangerously close to lying. But if we don’t do anything to manage how our message will be received, we can easily have the effect of lying unless that person is already of a similar mind to us.

So often, we have conversation after conversation with people, and never reach a mutual understanding. What’s worse, we’ll often feel like we have understood, because we’re satisfied with how we’ve expressed ourselves and we’re satisfied with what we’ve heard in response. But our individual narratives can still be miles apart.

This is how pain happens, even when we try our hardest: The limited ability of words to express truths.

When we hit this pain, we have a choice. We can continue down our separate rails, refusing to see the root of the disconnect. Or we can attempt, through trial and error, toil and ardour, to find truly common ground. We can choose to create, from scratch, a shared language, by first accepting that it doesn’t yet exist.

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