Communication: Holding Both – The Power of “And”

We can all acknowledge that there is an abundance of quotes out there. Often, we search for quotes to feel inspired or change how we are reflecting on something. The funny thing is that where you can find a quote to inspire in one way, there is another one equally inspiring that can almost communicate the exact opposite message. So do they negate each other? How are we supposed to integrate two seemingly conflicting, yet equally credible messages? Today, we will do just that with quotes on communication.

I find that there can be even more meaning in inspirational quotes when we look in between two seemingly opposite messages. Hence “Holding Both.” This theme just goes all too perfectly with “The Space Between” concept too! (Read here for that concept). What does it mean to hold both? It is a willingness to engage with two messages to find their individual value and collective values.

Holding Both: The Power of And 
Debating Influential Quotes and their Value

On Communication

I am going to make this “Holding Both” format an ongoing series that I dip back into throughout my blog posts. Also, this concept gives me a chance to show off more fun sub blog headers which I cannot resist.

Contradictions. We are all full of them. Humans, am I right? Health and balance comes from being able to hold life’s contradictions and find the truth somewhere in it all. 

In these “debate mash ups” between quotes that I will curate, I am going to find a variety of voices and backgrounds to compare, contrast, and hopefully marry. After all, variety is the spice of life (this statement too will be put on trial!).

For our first showcase, we are going to work with the theme of communication. What makes it healthy? What is important in communication? How do we communicate? I felt inspired to do this post after working some time with dissecting what makes for good communication with several couples that I am serving. The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it took place.

Quote the First

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter. ‘Tis the difference between the lightening bug and lightning.

-Mark Twain

This is a bold statement from a bold person. Granted, he was likely referring to writing but this still applies to our analysis of communication. With social distancing, it feels that more and more of our communication is through some form of writing. It is hard not to agree with him, right? Words absolutely matter. This quote made me think about several times when I was working with clients and I chose a word that did not underscore the full intensity of their feeling. “This really sucks,” may be a true statement for someone who was recently diagnosed with cancer, but it can often be the lightening bug of “This is fucking bullshit.” Expect a post on swearing in therapy to come later.

This is a minor attunement issue for most therapeutic relationships, but these misattunements can definitely stack up if we are not paying attention. When we are referring to a romantic relationship and feel like our partner always misses the beat with naming what we are feeling this can lead many couples to turn to couples therapy. Even the way that someone uses certain words around us may be cause for relationship turmoil. While I agree that this statement is true, when applied to the therapeutic process, I can tell you that my education was not centered around choosing the best words.

Quote the Second

Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about.

—Cory Doctorow

This quote seems almost contradictory to Mark Twain’s yet I can’t help but also agree. The act of conversation is ultimately way more important than what is said or what is talked about. That is my experience with therapy too. We get too hung up on the therapeutic plan and what interventions to use next. Outside of therapy, this may also come about as preparing to respond in the midst of the other person speaking. Paying attention to the conversation, tone, and message often speaks much louder than the content or advice itself. The need to be heard and understood is more important than “What advice do you have for me?” After all, there are hotlines and news columns that can cover the advice part if that is solely what someone is looking for.

During this time of the pandemic, I find this quote to carry even more weight as what we likely are all missing is conversation with one another. Being with one another, to me, is part of conversation. After all, the majority of the way we communicate is non-verbally and this makes a big difference in how conversation is steered. Content without conversation is just advertising or messaging. I would know, it is what I have been trying to accomplish here. So with that, I invite you to absolutely reach out to me or leave a comment replying to these posts! 

What is the break down of all of this? How do we hold both? Check it out in a section I am going to call Quotable Quotient, a quote that splits the difference between the two.

Quotable Quotient 

Every act of communication is a miracle of translation.

-Ken Liu 

There really isn’t much to elaborate on here. I love this quote because it is absolutely true. It is a wonder that any of us are able to communicate with one another, have the other person process that, and respond in kind with the chance of feeling fully on the same page. The importance of this can absolutely be seen and felt during critical conversations and also within therapy and writing. Those moments where we might be a little more vigilant in attending to communication really make this quote stand out to me as being the overarching observation that ties the above to points together. 

We are stronger when we listen, and smarter when we share.

-Rania Al-Abdullah 

This quote also gives credence to the wonder and power of conversation. Rania argues that it is not necessarily the choice of words, but the strength within listening to people’s words and communications that is the most important. Choosing the right word is a part of this, but listening to truly hear what the other person is trying to share is another part of the equation. The “smarter when we share,” part of this quote sounds very intentional. It is not “stronger when we talk.” Sharing is a mutual process that includes truly hearing another person’s experience. The sentiment in this quote suggests that finding the lightning can actually be a shared process rather than just up to the one talking. 

Two people engaged in communication

If nothing else, I hope that this exploration sheds light on why communication can be so powerful, and also why it is so complex and sticky. Again, if this exploration didn’t hit true for you, please feel free to chime in, collaborate and converse. We will find truth together.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it took place.

—George Bernard Shaw

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