Have you ever explained something to someone and neither of you understood what the other was trying to say? When no matter what you said you couldn’t make your message clear? It becomes a comedy of errors sometimes and you just have to laugh about it. Abbott and Costello did a skit called “Who’s on first?” in their 1945 movie The Naughty Nineties, which perfectly demonstrates what I’m talking about. It gets funnier every time I hear it. Click here if you’d like to watch the clip. If you’re a baseball fan you’ll love this. It’s a classic. And hilarious even if you’re not a fan.
I recently had a conversation with a woman at church. We were making plans to combine the Portuguese and Spanish services on Sunday and I asked her a question about the order of songs in the service. I usually create the schedule, with the help of the pastor, on Friday night at rehearsal. This time a third party, M, had set up the schedule. She didn’t understand what I was asking and I was clumsily trying to explain. After a bit of incomplete/incompetent (on my part) dialogue, I looked at her and said, “I don’t understand.” She replied just as simply, “What don’t you understand?” Aaarrgghh! Deadlock. I’m laughing as I recall this incident. As it turns out, it was my not understanding the Portuguese that was causing the problem. I realized that after she went back to rehearsing her music and I was able to focus singly on what was in front of me. As soon as I caught her eye, I gave her a thumbs up to let her know I had resolved my issue. Fortunately we are both mature enough to realize it was no big deal. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
On a more serious note, have you ever tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t want/refuses to communicate with you? Well, I have and it isn’t pretty. The last years of our marriage I begged D to talk to me. He wouldn’t. Or maybe he couldn’t. I guess I’ll never know which but the one thing I do know clearly and without doubt–we weren’t talking. And I know what I think–he had already removed himself from our marriage. His mind, along with his conversation, was elsewhere. Once communication has broken down, the door is wide open for miscommunication to occur. One partner will take a word, a phrase, or even a small sentence and isolate it and obsess over it and make it into something much worse than it was ever intended to be. It’s so sad when that happens because it’s proof that real interactive dialogue is gone and the relationship is taking a nose dive.
I remember one time when I knew we weren’t connecting with each other verbally, and I decided I should write him a letter. (Back in the early days of our courtship D would write me long, sweet letters. I still have them.) So I wrote him a letter explaining my feelings about something; I don’t remember what, but probably our inability to communicate. I closed by saying that either he didn’t get it or he didn’t care. I also told him I preferred to think it was the former. After a slow and difficult separation and divorce, I finally had to acknowledge it was the latter. He got it.
An aside: If my sweet brother Jack were alive, he would be 71 today. He hated sharing his birthday with Ronald Reagan. 🙂 I still miss him. 😦