The following is a personal email to Lucy that I am sharing on my blog for your exploration. This is exactly what I just sent her, except for these first two lines and one in brackets below (and the images).
Communication (Photo credit: P Shanks)
You called me this morning on your way to work. I will write about it a bit and maybe make it in to a blog, but maybe not. These details may be so personally specific that they are only valuable to you and I and not to anyone else but you and I.
So, you called me. That is an important detail. There is no controversy there.
There were lots of things spoken, but all of those details are “inside” of the more basic detail that you, Lucy, called me, J.R., to communicate with me. So, let’s get that fully before we move on.
Next, what was the purpose of you calling me? There could be controversy about this, but let’s focus on a simple, obvious detail that is not very controversial. Maybe you were most interested in communicating something TO me. Maybe it was several things or just one thing at first, but then you thought of other things.
Maybe you were committed to having someone “get” you, and so you specifically called me, J.R., with an openness to giving some communication to me and then to notice what I do with what you communicated. Would I make you wrong? Would I make a long response like this? Would I “just get you?” Maybe you were really interested in how I would respond and maybe you even had a few conflicting expectations and were testing to see which expectation would be fulfilled.
Now, let’s jump to another uncontroversial detail. At the end of the call, you said “you do not get me.”
I did not argue with that. I did not agree either. I probably gave another “mm hmmm” response that you could habitually and automatically interpret like this: whenever he says “mm hmmm,” then it must mean that he cannot take criticism and is afraid of the threat. Then, you can conclude; “Aha, what I said threatened him!”
Well, if you did not intend to threaten me but you think that I experienced threat (or might have), that could be important feedback. You might unintentionally “push someone away,” which is similar to intentionally pushing someone away, but perhaps without the awareness of exactly how you did it. “Was it something that I said? What did I ever do that they would they would jump me!?!? Why were they so threatened? Why were they so angry? Why were they so reactive? Why do they keep walking by and looking at me?” You might be really sincerely curious about how your behavior influences other people and contributes to various kinds of dynamics/ways of relating.
Eating (Photo credit: Mirror | imaging reality)
Now, I return to the basic statement “you do not get me.” Maybe I got some but not all. Maybe I got none. Maybe I did get exactly what you were offering at the time, but there could still be more for you to share.
So, whenever you communicate, we can presume that there is some commitment behind your activity of communicating, so your every communication can be assessed by you for your effectiveness in fulfilling your commitment, whatever that commitment may have been- maybe even an undistinguished commitment. [At the end, are you satisfied, disappointed, angry, delighted, tense, relieved, or what? ]
Sometimes, the whole point of communicating is simply to clarify a commitment- even to deliver it to someone else, but also perhaps just to become clear about it or even create a new commitment. Maybe you want to influence another specific person, such as J.R., in order to nourish some attractive possibility or avoid some repulsive possibility (or both).
Maybe you want to influence or “manipulate” your future and your life. That could be called “responsibility” and “initiative” or “assertiveness” or “creativity.” Any particular method of influence might work well or might not work at all. You might invest in a particular method repeatedly, like nearly every day for 3 years or 30 days or 30 years. Why would you do that? Because it consistently produces value for you. Because it is a priority to you- at least for as long as it is. Your priorities can change over time, too, right?
However, almost every day you eat. That is a priority. Some weeks, you call me every single day, even several times a day or for several hours total per week. That shows your priorities and values and interests.
Eating daily is apparently more important to you than talking to me daily, but maybe eating is not as intriguing or challenging or controversial, so you may also think about talking with me a lot more than you think about eating. You may not have any issue with eating. You just do it day after day. It is a priority and it will remain a priority and all of that is simple and clear. Then, there are other things that in contrast are not quite as simple or not quite as clear. You are still weighing or assessing or evaluating or testing.
How important to you is it, for instance, to study the Bible? That may be a mere curiosity or an intense fascination or passion or pre-occupation… or totally boring and even confusing. How is it important to you? How important is it? How is it important? Those are questions of priority or importance or relevance. Do you invest time in studying the Bible more than in studying the Book of Mormon? Why?
Someoone named “Lucy” reading some book (Photo credit: leekelleher)
So, again, I have only covered two uncontroversial details so far: you called me and you said to me at the end “you do not get me.” I deliberately focus on certain details in particular- which I consider important. I deliberately respond to particular details- which I consider important. I may “talk around” or “talk over” other details- maybe to avoid controversy- as well as introduce new details… maybe to spark a particular inquiry or controversy… which I may consider important. I may have some commitment in the background as well- whether any commitment of mine is distinguished or undistinguished.
When you called, I was in that very moment thinking about you and thinking about sharing with you the distinction between sincerity and accuracy, then between accuracy and prioritizing importance or relevance. I do not need to go any deeper in to that now, but that is another detail I am introducing. I think I will just focus on the issue of sincerity for now.
I texted you “thank you for your sincerity.” Sometimes people “believe” something and they are interested in who also believes the same. Who will accept their perception without any further comment? Who is interested enough in their perception to listen and then just accept quietly with maybe just a few clarifying questions to show their interest and to show their commitment to “getting it?” Who will “agree?” Who will recognize Lucy’s conclusions as valid? Who will simply support her current conclusions?
You may value KNOWING (are you sure?) that I “get it.” Or, you want to know WHETHER I “get it” and you want SOMEONE to “get you,” whether that is me or a girlfriend of yours or what.
So, now I could add lots of details of what you said in the phone call. You told me new information that I did not already know. Maybe it is “weird” to you which details seem most interesting to me. Maybe my responses (or lack of comment about particular things) are notable in the context of you wanting to organize some new specific clarity. Did I get how important certain things are to you? Do I even care?
Maybe you had a specific outcome already in mind, and having one in mind could be very useful in effectively producing that outcome, right? Did you satisfy it? At the end, you said, “you do not get me,” perhaps like this: “see there, this is just as I suspected/expected, even you do not get me- EVEN YOU, J.R.! You should though. You really should. Do you get that? DO YOU!?!?!”
So there can be controversies and conflicts among sincere people. They can sincerely disagree and sincerely argue. They can argue about the Bible or about what happened six minutes ago or six years ago or about “what is the right way to” be a good husband or “what my mom should do about _______.”
Sometimes, people can also get “buried in details.” When I make a broad comment like “so I get that you were really upset,” that is obviously a broad comment. It is not an argument against any specific detail or a request for more detail. It is just a broad, general comment. It could be side-stepping one controversy or topic or commitment. It could be making room for another.
What might happen is that I actually do get you, but you do not get that I get you. That could be an important commitment of yours- that you KNOW that you can RELY on me to get you or TRUST me to get you. It could be a breakdown or a problem or an issue if you value me getting you but you do not know if I did or not- or you sincerely believe that I did not get you.
You might even really be concerned already (before you start talking or even before you dial the phone) that I won’t or that I don’t or that I should or that I can’t. You might be sincere about how “no one gets you” or “obviously he does not get me because if he did then there is no way that he would _____.” However, sincerity is not accuracy.
Sincerity is just the formation of one conclusion. The conclusion has not been established as accurate or, more importantly, as important. But the sincere conclusion could be important…. maybe.
It could be important to you to create a “safe” relationship (as in a dynamic of conversation that is ”calm, steady, peaceful, open, sincere, honest, interesting, valuable, a high priority”). You might not want to add controversy to it by adding physical interactions that can be “complications” or “challenges.” You might want the relationship to be “kept sacred.” You might not want to risk losing that safety or value. It might be so important to you that you avoid risking “too much.”
It could be important to you to have a relationship in which controversy is welcome and where controversy can be openly stated and directly addressed and explored and resolved. New conclusions can be created. Old conclusions can be tested, confirmed, invalidated, revised, or discarded.
Old commitments can be distinguished. New commitments can be created. That is called communication- and not just any conversation, but high-value communication. Or, maybe that kind of communication is not a priority. Maybe eating is a higher priority.
I ate these – ants in the Amazon 2003 (Photo credit: exfordy)
However, when a controversy arises, who do you call? You may even stop eating (because the sauce is just way too hot anyway) at least long enough to call someone when you are upset about work or about a court case or about a friend, and who do you consistently choose to communicate with? Who do you share yourself with? Why?
Who do you want to “get” you? Who do you know might be able to get you (like when other people CLEARLY do not)? Who do you know does get you? Who gets you the most? Who gets the most of you?
Who do you trust? How do you trust them? How do not you NOT trust them… that is important to you? How would you value trusting them that you do not… yet. Maybe you never will. Maybe not them. Maybe not anyone.
What commitment is active, evident, alive? What value is motivating the interaction, the exploration, the creativity? What is the priority?
Why do you keep calling me? Why do you keep texting me? What do you want from me!?!?
When interacting with me, what do you notice that you want for yourself? What do you value most? What is important to you? What is important to you about what happened six days ago or six years ago or how your mom should be or what makes a husband a good husband?
What is SINCERELY important to you? Sincerity is a foundation for clarity and prioritizing. Clarity includes the issue of accuracy of perceptions. Prioritizing is about clearly sorting through some accurate perceptions- perceptions in which there is a lot of confidence, so no defensiveness or argumentativeness or controversy. There is no frightened desperation for approval. There is just clarity.
Some conversations stir up controversy. That can be attractive but often that can be quite repelling. Some interactions cause controversy. Some relationships stir up lots of controversy. Other relationships allow for controversy to be voiced and then resolved… peacefully, reliably, consistently, trustworthily.
Other relationships are so valuable that in spite of controversy and challenges, we continue them- such as a job that is not ideal, but is valuable. Until a better job is found to replace it, that job “serves a purpose” and so the controversy or challenge is “worth the drama.”
But some relationships are so valuable that a dozen different jobs may come and go or a dozen different controversies, but that relationship has so much value in the communication that the relationship is maintained for years or even decades. That is very distinct from a pattern of relationships that last for weeks or months- which may also serve some valued purpose- but do not have the lasting priority… of eating.
I may say “this food is too hot for me” and then a few times a year I remind myself “yes, it is definitely too hot.” That is probably not a priority. That may be an expression of boredom. Or, maybe I want to know if I have changed so that I can “take the heat.”
“Please, do not rely on hints, J.R., okay!?!?!” Why not? What if they are serving my purposes quite satisfactorily… for now?
What if there is a foundation for interaction that is so stable and steady that it can have a strong enough system of deep roots that when the storms come inevitably- controversy and breakdowns- the tree is firm and reliable? It is good to recognize the contrast between sincerity and effectiveness. What if one woman builds all of her romantic relationships on sand- on sinking and shifting sand- for a long, long time (SINCERELY!) but eventually is VERY frustrated by the results of that (even resigned and dismissive and cynical), but then SUDDENLY discovers that she can build her relationship not on sand but on a rock- a firm, solid foundation? Is there even such a thing? Is that possible?
Do you BELIEVE? Do you TRUST? Do you have FAITH?
If not, that could be important to get. If so, that could also be important to get.
Cover of Holy Bible: 10th Anniversary Edition
Sincerity is not reliable. If someone really “gets its,” then they are not “stuck” on issues of sincerity or approval or agreement. They just go in to action. They assess priorities and risks and opportunities- with a focus on accuracy- and then they act.
Jesus Christ, as recorded in Luke 6:
“Every person who comes to me and has heard my words and does them, I shall show you what he is like”: 48
“He is like a man who built a house and he dug and he went deep and laid the foundation on the rock, and when there was a flood, the flood beat on that house and it could not shake it, for its foundation was founded on the rock.” 49
“And he who heard and did not do it [did not GET it!] is like the man who built his house on the soil without a foundation, and when the river beat on it, immediately it fell, and the fall of that house was great.”