Communication, if it occurs, is a miracle, or so Dr. Caleb Gattegno, originator of Words in Color, The Silent Way, and author of many educational books, often said. We don’t learn to talk in order to communicate. If we did, we would be much better at communication. Rather, we learn to talk in order to express ourselves, and we work very hard at trying to express just what it is that is on our minds. We may even restate it many times, perhaps trying to choose just the right words to capture what we think may express what we’re feeling or thinking. But all too often what we’re trying to say is not heard by the listener in the manner in which we were trying to say it and hoping it would be heard. Then we might become frustrated and say to our listener, “Oh, you just don’t listen to me,” or “You just don’t understand me,” or “That’s not what I meant.” We have arrived at an impasse; communication is not occurring.
There is a little book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, M.D. In it the author suggests that there are four agreements we can make with ourselves that will help us better communicate with each other. The first one is “don’t take it personally”. By that it is meant that when someone says something, if we take it personally, we focus on ourselves and aren’t able to hear what is being said. Usually what a person says is more about themself than about us. Often we feel like we’re hearing a criticism of ourself, and we become defensive instead of gaining any insight into what the person actually meant by what was said.
The second agreement is “don’t make assumptions”. Assumptions are frequently wrong and cloud our thinking. They lead us down a doubtful path because we start creating beliefs for which we really have very little evidence.
The third agreement is “be careful with your words” because words are powerful; words can hurt us. Here the author cites how discouraging words, words without hope, can often cause the recipient of these words to become discouraged and to do poorly when otherwise the person might not have failed.
The last agreement is “always do your best”. If you always do your best then you can’t look back and say, “If only I’d tried harder.” By knowing at each step you have done your best, you won’t beat yourself up if things don’t go perfectly. By following these agreements perhaps we can clear the way for better communication happening between us.
Recently, the staff at the Center had a weekend retreat on communication, specifically communication with parents of our students. We value and talk a lot about open and honest communication and parents and teachers forging a bond for the welfare of their children. We studied this at our retreat. We know this is tough stuff. It takes a lot of work because misunderstandings are common outgrowths of people trying to communicate.
So with all of this in mind, let’s be brave! Let’s try to listen to each other with open ears, void of judgments, accusations, and mistrust. Let’s try to say what we mean and when we see that the way in which we’re saying it isn’t making our point clear, then let’s keep trying to get it right.
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher