Behaviour is communication
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
— George Bernard Shaw
People fear emotion like they fear courage. What’s more strange is people have difficulty trusting a clear mind and an open heart. We quietly crave exposure to these things, but when it enters our world, we’re easily unsettled by them.
I’ve found beauty in two qualities lately: forgiveness and silent chatter—loud behaviour. Something to love about forgiveness is it makes space for what comes next: more mistakes we never fear and behaviour we find thrilling or fulfilling. Daily forgiveness brings out your unique beauty—which is often fragile yet robust, scared yet courageous. Sitting and breathing in that view crushes the old, inaccurate stories about you and sears away any feeling of shame. Forgive yourself and feel it deeply, because you will look and feel different to the people around you. It will be easier for them to sense that you are not trying to control them, own them, berate them or distort them. And the best, more sensitive ones will feel good in your presence, and they won’t get enough of that feeling.
The quiet truth of this world is you have to contend with the shame and doubt that comes from years of showing people who you are and having them misunderstand or retreat or abandon you in response. We are great at misreading each other. And you shouldn’t feast on those repeated misunderstandings so regularly.
Actions are loud. With what we know about the power of the nonverbal, it comes as no surprise our behaviour is a mighty indicator of how we’re communicating our honest thoughts and feelings about every moment of every day. People lean on that to understand each other. But, while it is often subconscious, we all fall short of our visions of how we should be.
No one navigates the world smoothly and peacefully without repeated failure. There will never be an end to the recalibrating you’ll do in your life, nor to the massive cluster of sensitivity and keen observation and vulnerability and courage and thoughtfulness and bluster you’ll feel from being forced to navigate and accommodate who you are and what the world is in harmony with each other. But here’s something to remember:
It’s okay to wake up every morning and forgive yourself for being you.
I regularly struggled to align my behaviour with how I wanted to communicate my thoughts. School was the hardest time. And it took me several years to achieve the confidence I have now—which is not always a lot. When I bumped heads with people who were typically unapologetic and overwhelming with noise, overblown personalities and meaningless expectations, there was no wonder that it was hard to understand who I was meant to be.
I know conveying excellent communication and integrity is not easy. But it ruptured my friendships, relationships, and life opportunities. It does a lot of damage. And it took a tremendous shift to understand how to focus on who I was communicating for and why.
I’m someone who enjoys being a listener. But enough time passed for me to learn communication is not solely about one person. It isn’t just about speaking well or forming a good argument; it’s about getting the message across without too much distortion, and an understanding of all possible failures in the chosen communication method and the many ways the message can be understood.
Two things: communication is not just an exchange of information; it’s conveying or translating a message to another person in order to establish an understanding. Backdate it to its history in Latin—where Communicare means to share, exchange, consult, confer, or participate. This cannot be done in isolation. Joint interaction is necessary to express the disparity between the colours inside your heart and the grey shades dominating the world outside of it—in which we leave our tiny, but significant imprints.
Secondly, behavioural communication is peer-to-peer. It can be between you and your goals, you and your daily habits, you and your vision, and much more—so long as you both have a clear understanding of what each other needs.
More than ever this year, I’ve accepted that my actions are the best way to see reality or understand what I’m actually conveying—because there is less chance for distortion or misinterpretation. That doesn’t mean speaking is often meaningless, but it’s much more important that what we think and say is triple-layered with what we do. That is the meaning of integrity. Don’t get me wrong, when communicating, we must expect to be misunderstood; we may try to minimise it, but never can we eliminate it altogether. Anticipating that we will not be fully understood allows us to be more attentive to clarifying and listening. And recognising the impossibility of eliminating all misunderstanding and anticipating all the reactions enables us to identify the reality, and I’ve found it easier to be yourself once comfortable with this practice.
Not only have I found this a beneficial for my personal relationships, but it helped me translate and understand how to bridge the gap between my current work and what my best work can look like, and the same can apply to navigating future relationships, jobs, people or stressful challenges.
Your behaviour is the most important impression.
In essence, communication is about the series of equal actions and reactions between you and the receiver. When it comes to communication, remember two things: one, you are not alone in the interaction, and it is at least as much about the receiver as it is about you. And two, what you communicate is less about what you have said, but what the other person has understood.
Thank you for yet another inspiring and thought-provoking essay. I love the last sentence -- the definition of communication. So true that what you say is wonderful, but if the listener doesn't understand it, you haven't communicated anything.
Also, a saying that I like came to mind while I read your essay, "Integrity is what you do when no-one is looking or will notice."
And another quote I saw, "It's easier to teach a child than to fix a man."
Keep up the great writing and thinking!