Interpersonal relationships are paradoxical. What I mean by this is that they are both simple and complex at the same time. For example a simple action like a kiss on the cheek can have very complex results.
I think the complication arises from the interaction between what we may physically do or say and how those words or deeds are interpreted by the observers. At some level communication (the basis of interpersonal relationships) involves the translation of internal thoughts and emotions into physical reality which are observed then interpreted back into internal thoughts and emotions by the recipient.
This process has a lot of room for the introduction of error. There is the internal translation which is subjective and may be internally inconsistent (we don’t always say what we mean). There is the physical transfer of information through word and deed which can be heard incorrectly or observed imperfectly (inflection and body language count). Then we have another subjective internal translation operation which usually has very different parameters than the initial operation (we also know we don’t always say what we mean 🙂 ).
As a result I believe we can classify interpersonal communication as a natural process with sensitive dependence upon initial conditions (chaotic?). What this means is that we may get wildly different results from the same actions depending heavily on very subtle differences in both the initiator and receiver of the communication.
Having convinced myself of the hopelessness of actually being able to successfully express myself, let me continue 😉
The point of this blog is that my own internal attitude has a lot to do with the effectiveness of my communication, and since the thrust of this blog is Christian Walk my intent is to focus on the way I, as a Christian, attempt to convey what I perceive as truth to other people, both Christians and non-Christians.
I don’t think that I am unique in having the experience of trying to tell someone, even someone I care very much about, how they are doing something wrong. I’m going out on a limb here but I would hazard a guess that anyone with a significant other has been on both ends of that experience. Without additional risk I believe I can say that the regularity with which the outcome is unpleasant is also a common experience.
So what occurred to me is that my internal initial condition has a lot to do with the effectiveness (correlation between intent and result) of my communication. It further occurred to me that one of the differences between the times when this communication has actually been effective and when it has spun wildly out of control was when I was commiserating as opposed to instructing. A critical difference in that initial condition is the distinction between dealing with a peer vs dealing with a student.
Through subtle and not so subtle body language, inflection and word choices I may convey an attitude of superiority without really intending to. This is especially true with those whom I care deeply about because I want the best for them and frequently think I know what that is.
I need to think about who I am and how I am relating to the person with whom I am trying to communicate if I don’t want to come across as judgmental or condescending even when that is the furthest thing from my mind.
James 3:2 “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man […]”
I would like to be a perfect man, then I could tell everyone how its done.
So you should have nothing to worry about ;-).