February 10, 2014

The Fine Art of Communication

Categories: Collaborative LawDivorce


John Dewey once said, “There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community and communication.” Try the experiment of communicating with fullness and accuracy, some experience to another, especially if it be somewhat complicated, and you will find your own attitude toward your experience changing.

Every organization has challenges with communication. Some things that get said inartfully impinge on the comfort of others. This, of course, is inevitable in a family. Even when things are not necessarily said inartfully, they may accomplish the same result.

Virginia Satir tells us, “Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual differences are appreciated, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible…the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.” I find that to be a pretty profound statement. Individual differences are appreciated, mistakes tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible.

So, how does that occur? By chance? Sounds chancy. By luck? Sounds iffy. How does a community create such a space? Perhaps it is by stepping on each other’s toes, and figuring out how best to alleviate the discomfort. As Rollo May says, “Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.”

We must have the space within which to be inartful on occasion, where mistakes are tolerated, if we can effectively move toward alleviating the discomforts. I suspect the discomforts will never be totally alleviated, but become more tolerated when we have the space to talk about what is happening. Most of us are not a bashful lot. We are not without deeply felt opinions. We do not suffer fools quietly. We are most likely candidates to be bouncing off one another, inartfully at times.

The space in which communication is open and rules are flexible will usually err on the side of speaking first, and then cleaning things up. I suspect that we each consider ourselves to speak the exact truth–if only because we do not intentionally misspeak the truth.

It is very hard to say the exact truth, even about your own immediate feelings–much harder than to say something fine about them which is not the exact truth. (This last sentence is not my words, but those of George Eliot.)

In The Devil’s Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce, he defines–“Heaven, :n.: A place where the wicked cease troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.” We all like to hear ourselves talk. But, Hubert H. Humphrey reminds us, “The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.” This is another reason why we all benefit from tolerance. We never know when a pearl will fall out of our rambling–or someone else’s. “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” I bet you didn’t know that Ernest Hemingway said that. He would have a vested interest in wanting people to listen carefully, since he had so much to say.

So, we will move forward in our communities, with the common goal of communicating about our communication, with tolerance and flexible rules. Remember, “Whenever two good people argue over principles, they are both right.” Marie Ebner von Eschenbach told us that. “We are healed of a suffering only by expressing it to the full,” so says Marcel Proust.

In case you are wondering, I quote others in order to better express myself. (Those aren’t really my words–Michel de Montaigne actually said that.)

Bruce Peck

Bruce is one of the founding members of the Collaborative Law Institute.
Back in the Wonder Years, this small group was trying to figure out what a new way of practicing family law might look like. Today the collaborative law concept has exploded, not just throughout the United States, but also internationally. For over thirty years Bruce has continued to hone his skills to provide the highest quality of services to family law clients. He helps good people make tough choices during difficult times.

Bruce is a laid back and easy going person who listens well to others. He is a shameless optimist who can always see possibility and opportunity. Being very curious by nature, he is a voracious reader. His love for words has drawn him into being an avid poet.

Bruce’s skills supports clients interests without alienating their spouse. When the parties reach agreement, it is not under duress. They have the time to discuss all decisions with their attorneys before signing the agreement. Once completed, the stipulated divorce is filed with the court for a default hearing in which neither party, nor their attorneys, ever have to set foot inside a courthouse. Learn more at www.BrucePeckLawOffice.com

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One Response to The Fine Art of Communication

  1. Carl Arnold says:

    I like how your article steers us towards poetry and literature as a way to guide our thinking during conflict and tough conversations.

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