MisterCommunication


"Maybe we could muster a week-long workshop on interpersonal miscommunication."

I think of myself as a solid journeyman communicator, certainly not a master. I've studiously avoided delving too awfully deeply into any of the many linguistic theories and practices. Neuro-Linguistic Programming gives me the creeps. Noam Chomsky reliably puts me to sleep. Formal grammar simply seems beyond me. I navigate language employing a mostly-reliable felt sense. I generally manage to make myself understood. I'm quick with words, skilled as producing the encapsulating phrase, and, though a lousy speller, a half-way decent writer. I still surprise myself, though, when rediscovering the first principle of communication, that it's often the illusion that it's occurred. I'm perfectly capable of flowing along convinced that I'm on the same page before shockingly catching on that I'm not even in the same library as my counterpart. I'm growing toward accepting these disconnects as imperfectly normal, though they still shock me every time.

I learned last night that The Muse will be heading out to attend a week-long workshop in New Orleans on Monday morning.
I'd known she was heading to 'Nawlins, and thought that she was attending another of those 'workshops' she attends for work. These work workshops hardly qualify as workshops to my mind, consisting as they tend to of people stacked up rather like cordwood in anonymous hotel conference rooms mesmerizing each other with poorly-fashioned PowerPoint® slideshows. She's organized a few that genuinely break this stultifying model and actually accomplish something, but the default setting for lab-sponsored 'workshops' scrupulously avoids including any sort of workshop which might encourage anyone to face-to-face or (shudder!) one-on-one learn anything from anyone else, the sort of activities which constitute a genuine workshop. The lab's version might more properly be referred to as briefings, except they are hardly brief. Attendees leave these gatherings exhausted from days spent immersed in a context that seems especially designed to prevent genuine communication from ever happening. If it wasn't for breaks, breakfasts, lunches, and suppertimes, little could transpire there.

This workshop The Muse will attend, though, will be completely different from the sort The Lab convenes. She has no real idea how this one will be organized, other than the certainty that it will most certainly be almost, if not completely, unlike any workshop The Lab would ever sanction. I suspect that it will be one of those full immersion jobs, one simultaneously employing all five senses and satisfy a multitude of learning styles and preferences. It will quite likely feature music and dancing, storytelling and even singing, modes altogether too touchy-feelie for any Lab-sponsored event. Full-on kinetic communication seems likely to occur, and deep, unshakable learning result. The Muse will doubtless thrive there and return renewed and recharged. I faintly remember her mentioning this workshop as a distant abstraction, even asking if I might be interested in attending, but it seemed like an unnecessary complication to me. I don't think of myself as a workshop attending sort of person. I tend to get in trouble when I attend workshops because I'm a noisy learner.

I was sort of shocked to learn just last night that The Muse had booked her attendance at this workshop. It's fine with me that she's going, and I had no clue, that first principle of communication stepping into our sphere again, the illusion that it's occurred. She apologized a couple of times, insisting that she hadn't intended to keep me out of the loop. I apologized in return, figuring that being the journeyman communicator that I am, I'm fully capable of hearing without registering some quantity of the information she attempts to share with me. Much of what we share seems deeply encoded, in a dialect only we share, and I sometimes leave my secret decoder ring in my other pants. Whatever the cause, we apparently carried on a weeks-long illusory communication about this workshop. I felt a little left out.

I'd been wondering why she hadn't suggested that I tag along to Nawlins with her, as I have before for her work 'workshops'. I imagined myself writing in the back of some sleezy bar and dining on some patio terrace, even jumping on one of those funky trams for a ride out to the Garden District, but she'd never suggested me tagging along. I'm not much for travel anymore, preferring to avoid airports and anonymous hotel rooms, so I didn't push and she, curiously, didn't shove. In retrospect, the communication gap seems as though it should have been obvious to both of us, certainly wide and deep enough to contain all neither of us said about its now obvious presence. So it goes sometimes. I have no handy advice about how anyone might avoid this sort of tacit miscommunication, other than to expect it sometimes and accept it as part of the cosmic joke language loves to play on innocent communicators. Maybe we could muster a week-long workshop on interpersonal miscommunication.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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