Relationships and the Potential for Misunderstanding
I was so excited when I found out that I could speak into my phone and have it type for me! What an amazing convenience!
I quickly learned, though, that my phone isn't all that "smart." How in the world could it think I would actually send someone a text that said, "I'm hey you to pick her up so reassure key lock is hopping for me" when I told it to type, "I'm heading out to pick her up so can you make sure Kayla is looking out for me?"
The hilarious thing is that I pushed send before I read the text. When Jaime sent a return "huh???" text I was confused. Until I read what my silly phone heard me say!
Our church just finished a four-week series on the blessings and pitfalls of technology in our hurried, plugged-in culture entitled "Unplugged: Finding Peace in a Digital Age." You can listen to the series here, here, here and here. My husband Benny defined himself (and all in the room over 40) as technology immigrants, while those under 40 are natives. One of the dangers of a technology saturated culture where phones and computers become the go-to way of communicating means there's great potential for the already common misunderstandings and challenges of knowing and being known to escalate.
Relationships are kind of like using a smart phone. Sometimes what we clearly communicated was heard quite differently by our listener.
We attempt to encourage a friend for growth in an area and she interprets our words as a back door opportunity to communicate, "Wow, you were really weak in this area and thank God you're making progress!"
A marital conflict escalates -- neither of us realize until later that it started because one of us completely misunderstood something that was said early in the conversation. (This happened a few days ago with Benny and me!)
A young teen reacts angrily because he or she heard Mom or Dad's "No, you can't go" as "Stop trying to grow up...and don't think you're gonna start running around everywhere like some of your friends do!"
Emotion-laced words are shared through email or text that should be communicated in person. Hiding behind a phone or computer is an understandable temptation when the heat rises in a relationship...but a dicey misunderstanding is pretty much a given.
There's no way to avoid our words being misinterpreted. We live in a fallen world. We're not perfect communicators and neither is anyone we know. We all hear things with a trail of experiences, struggles, former relational conflicts and "there they go again"'s behind us. It's just plain hard to talk to people and not be misunderstood -- especially when heart issues are involved.
And when a relationship is already tense or there's a growing history of hearing things wrongly (on our part or theirs), it makes communication all the more tangled.
I would be surprised if you aren't experiencing struggles in communication with at least one person right now. Just typing that sentence brought three people I love to mind as those I get anxious about talking to these days. Even if I carefully choose my words, will I still be misunderstood (again)? Is a big part of the problem in our relationship my own inability to listen without bringing past hurts or conflicts into mind? Can we have a meaningful conversation without one or both of us feeling judged, belittled or frustrated (even if we don't show it)?
Ugh. It's just easier to keep conversations light and superficial something, isn't it? And there are times perhaps we should avoid potentially thorny topics with someone because the relationship just can't handle it right now. But we can't give up. If we do, we'll drift into the bitterness, withdrawal and fear that characterizes people who are unwilling to take the risk of being hurt again when what we say isn't heard the way we meant it.
More in Redeemer Blog
October 30, 2019When are the Glory Days: Lessons Learned from Heartland Part Two
October 29, 2019When are the Glory Days? Lessons Learned from Heartland, Part One
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