Do you know what I’ve discovered? Given the thousands of languages spoken all over the world (and the
ones yet undiscovered) it’s a wonder we are not involved in perpetual world wars. Communication between humans, even when we speak the same language, is only as good as my husband’s car’s antiquated GPS system. If there are no tall buildings, if the atmosphere is just right, if there isn’t thick cloud coverage, and if the signal isn’t receiving interference from a gazillion other GPS systems in our over-crowded city, then and only then will WW and I make it out of the bowels of the worst part of the inner city where we’ve inadvertently
gotten lost. But if all of those factors are interfering with the GPS’s communication to our car, then after a few instructions to proceed “200 feet and make a sharp ‘U’ turn,” our direction finder, whom we call Penelope, will give up the ghost, shut down completely, and go totally silent. Although, when we listened carefully the last time, we could have sworn we heard her mumbling: “You are on your own biotchs, ‘cause I’m not feelin’ this”!
According to Wikipedia, “Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient. . . . The
communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the message of the sender.”
. . .and therein lies the rub!
Gustave Doré’s interpretation of the biblical confusion of tongues/ Wikipedia
There are so many combinations of humanoids in which communication can be turned upside down or completely distorted because of what Wikipedia cites as “barriers to communication”: attitudinal barriers, ambiguity of words/phrases, message overload, physical barriers, individual linguistic ability, physiological barriers, and presentation of information to name a few. I’ve experienced quite of few of these barriers to communication, and all three examples listed below are true stories.
HUSBAND vs. WIFE: (Communication Barrier = “Presentation of Information” combined with “Message Overload”)
The Blogger Wife said: “When you go to the grocery store, would you get me ten containers of hot red pepper flakes because our neighbor says that if we spread it throughout our property the dogs won’t shit on the lawn anymore. Speaking of our neighbor, did you know her third child had another miscarriage and the fifth child is getting yet another divorce? Isn’t that so sad? And I didn’t even tell you how Sylvia came outside to get the mail in one of her scantily-clad outfits as if this were the ghetto, and don’t you know she didn’t even begin to try and speak to me and Sondra. So I said to Sondra, ‘Oh, no she deh-ent. . . .’”
- THE BLOGGER’S HUSBAND HEARD: “When you go to the grocery store, buy me 60 red peppers, blah, blah, blah, blah.” As the husband placed the 60 fresh red peppers into the grocery cart, he wondered what in hell kind of meal his wife was going to make with 60 fresh red peppers. He went back and put two bottles of Maalox in the cart.
MOTHER vs. TEENAGE GIRL: (Communication barrier = “Attitudinal” and “Presentation of Information”)
My Fifteen-year-old said: “How do you like this outfit?”
- THIS MOTHER HEARD: “Do you think I look like your precious little girl in this – the kind that will fly under the radar of horny sixteen-year-old boys?”
This Mother answered: “Oh, Honey, you look ADORABLE!”
- MY FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD HEARD: “Oh Sweetie, you look just like a ten-year-old CHILD.”
My Fifteen-year-old answered: “That’s not what you were supposed to say! You were supposed to say that I look ‘HOT’!” Upon iterating that jarring communication, said teenager burst into tears and ran back to her room, slamming the door with all her might.
This Mother started screaming: “UM-HUM, AS IF THE WORD ‘HOT’ AND MY DAUGHTER’S NAME WILL EVER COME OUT OF MY MOUTH IN THE SAME SENTENCE.”
This Mother started talking to no one in particular: “Shit, that child must have lost her ever-lovin’ mind.
What kind of fool does she take me for — Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I ask you that?”
After the passing of some time, the teenager returns dressed in a full-on “Daisy Duke’s” outfit, replete with half-moon buns peeking out of the shorts and the already prematurely established 34D’s popping out of a tube top that The Mother had no idea the child possessed.
My Fifteen-year-old said: “I’m going over to Betsy’s house to study. I’ll be back before curfew.”
- THIS MOTHER HEARD: “I’m going out tonight to have sex with every guy that I meet. Don’t wait up.”
Google Image/Jessica Simpson
The Father said: “When the hell did all that happen?” pointing toward the Jessica Simpson/Jenny McCarthy imitation that had morphed into his daughter, as he put down his newspaper for the first time since the great wardrobe wars had begun 30 minutes ago between The Mother and The Teenager.
- THIS MOTHER HEARD: “I need you to get ahold of this, because what I’m looking at right now
scares the shit out of me!”
This Mother screamed: “GET YOUR LITTLE VANILLA BEHIND BACK INTO THAT BEDROOM, AND YOU BETTER NOT COME BACK OUT UNTIL EVERY LUMP AND HUMP HAS BEEN COMPLETELY COVERED UP — DO YOU HEAR ME, YOUNG LADY?”
This Mother started talking to no one in particular: “As if I’d let her out of this house wearing that skanky outfit. That’s my baby and she’s gonna’ stay that way!”
At which point, the teenager went stomping down the hall to her room, The Father went back to reading his newspaper, and The Mother made a mental note to ask one of her Muslim friends if they had an extra burqa that her daughter could wear for the next ten years.
FRIEND vs. FRIEND: (Communication barrier = “Ambiguity of words/phrases”)
Two little girls, who were “play cousins” around the age of eight, were playing house while their parents were finishing up dessert and coffee one Thanksgiving Day many years ago. Little-girl B’s grandfather had
just died within the last month and little-girl A (my daughter) was trying to console her.
Little-girl “A” said: “So, I hear your granddad bought the farm.”
LITTLE-GIRL “B” HEARD: “I hear your granddad moved to a farm.”
Little-girl “B” answered: “Huh, no he doesn’t live on a farm.”
Little-girl “A” said: “No, I heard he bit the dust.”
LITTLE-GIRL “B” HEARD: “I hear your granddad is eating dust.”
Little-girl “B” answered: “Noooo, my granddad never ate dirt.”
Little-girl “A” said: “Well, I heard he kicked the bucket.”
- LITTLE-GIRL “B” HEARD: “Your granddad kicks things.”
Little-girl “B” answered: “No, my granddad didn’t kick anything.”
Little-girl “A” said: “Sheesh Louise! I HEARD YOUR GRANDDAD DIED LAST MONTH!”
Little-girl “B” answered: “What? Mom!”
POLITICAL CANDIDATES vs. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: (Communication barrier = “Individual linguistic ability”):
Herman Cain said: “African-Americans have been brainwashed into not being open minded, not even considering a conservative point of view. . . . So it’s just brainwashing (not voting for me) and people not being open minded, pure and simple.”
- THIS BLACK PERSON HEARD: “I’m an arrogant son-of-a-bitch who is assuming I’m qualified to speak for all African-Americans, and I think I am the only smart, analytical African-American who is able to figure out the truth about what is going on in the political arena today. African-Americans are all idiots, except for me.”
This Black Person answered: “As one who voted Reagan-80, Bush-father, Bush-son, Obama-08, I think I considered the conservative POV for quite a while before I decided not to do it again. I also know other African-Americans who did the same. So, who are you referring to, Hermie?”
Herman Cain said: “The only tactic liberals have is to try to intimidate people into thinking that the Tea Party is racist. The Tea Party is not a racist movement, period! If it were, why would the straw polls keep showing that the black guy is winning? That’s a rhetorical question. Let me state it: The black guy keeps winning.”
- THIS BLACK PERSON HEARD: “I have chosen to ignore the fact that the Tea Party is using me because I am too clueless and arrogant to recognize that they have placed my frog’s ass in water that seemed to be tepid and inviting at first (on purpose), but there is a segment of the group (not all of them) that will heat the water to the point of boiling and poach my ass as soon as they no longer need me to try and seduce the illusive black vote.”
This Black Person answered: “You, my man are the flavor of the month, and you are as cynical a choice for the Tea Party as John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin. I shall never forgive the Tea Party or John McCain for the travesty they have unleashed upon us. Hear this, Herman Cain: you truly are a disgrace to the race.”
Herman Cain said: “Don’t try to pass a 2,700-page bill. You and I didn’t have time to read it. We’re too busy trying to live — send our kids to school. That’s why I am only going to allow small bills — three pages. You’ll have time to read that one over the dinner table.”
- THIS BLACK PERSON HEARD: “I know the devil is in the details but don’t your worry your pretty little heads about it. I’ll pass simple bills for simple people.”
This Black Person answered: “Shit, ‘Uncle Hermie’, I guess that means you and I would still be imprisoned by Jim Crow laws (poor, uneducated, unable to vote, and unelectable to public office), would have no Social Security, and would live in constant fear of having our asses bombed to smithereens since the Civil Rights Act (8 pages), the Social Security Act (64 pages), and the Patriot Act (600+) were all more than three pages long. Damn, couldn’t the Tea Party have found a better Black man to ‘represent’?”
Herman Cain said: “Let me introduce you to my 9-9-9 Tax Plan.”
- THIS BLACK PERSON HEARD: “I got this tax idea from copying the price of one of my pizzas (I figure if it works for my pizzas, it could work for America), and I’ve made it my main campaign theme because it’s catchy and could be passed into law on just one page! Of course, I won’t tell anybody that I suspect when you do the math my plan will only raise half the revenue our country needs while putting most of the burden on the poor. The taxes on the middle class would increase by thousands of dollars. But, hey, my rich friends will sure think I’m swell!”
This Black Person answered: “Oh God, me and my peeps are so screwed!”
Wikipedia describes “individual linguistic ability” as a communication barrier because: “The use of . . . inappropriate words in communication can prevent people from understanding the message. Poorly explained or misunderstood messages can also result in confusion. We can all think of situations where we have listened to something explained which we just could not grasp.”
I am discovering that communication is a very, very hard thing between humans, but absolutely necessary to get it right in order to live in harmony with one another. Lack of proper communication can crush feelings, destroy careers, break up marriages, undermine friendships, and start wars. I have had several situations in my life when I just knew I was on the same page with another person or persons and come to find out, I had started a war and never knew it. But so much of what infuses proper communication depends on the attitude of the heart. Do I love or deeply care for the human whom I’m communicating with or do I just want to win? I’m learning to use that corporate trick in my personal life that has one listen to another person’s business proposal and then ask the question: “I think I heard you say. . .?” If they answer the way you heard it, then you’re good to go. If their answer is different from what you heard, then you better make a sharp U turn at the next available exit and reposition your heart’s GPS.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
“Men and women belong to different species and communications between them is still in its infancy.” Bill
All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011 except where otherwise noted
Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit
is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.