Think, for a moment, about your friends and those people who you most often associate. What do they have in common? Odds are you probably all think alike and are ideologically close together. That seems to be the way that we congregate. We find people who share perspectives and ideas that are similar to ours and we call them our friends.
Why do we do this? Probably because it is comfortable. You have to think a little bit less when everyone else thinks the same way that you do. You're not challenged to critically think about your position.
It is interesting because we assume that everyone had or should have had the same experience growing up that we did. If they didn't then there must be something wrong, they must be a little strange. I know you don't actually think that, but the subconscious seems to and it influences what you do.
In my church body one of our favorite things to argue about is the style of worship on Sunday morning. Should it follow a traditional format or should it be more contemporary? (Note: Just to be clear -- This post isn't about the merits of either position in that discussion)
One thing that I've noticed in these conversations is that people who participate in them often assume that most people grew up with their style and that, for that reason, should consider it to be the norm. Because they've only experienced one type of service their whole life, they seem unable to find value in any different style. This makes the conversations challenging because the discussion is no longer based on the merit of the content or the style or what it communicates, but rather it devolves into an issue of personal preference. We want people who are just like us rather than discussing the deeper theological points about what worship is and how it is faithfully practiced.
I think that having a diverse spectrum of friends is great. My Facebook newsfeed is incredibly interesting. It ranges from the far left to the far right and includes many moderate folks too. This gives me many different perspectives on a wide range of topics and helps me to understand the various opinions and struggles that people have with different issues.
With all of these different perspectives, critical thinking becomes very important to help process through all the positions. Devoting one's self to is critical thinking is a challenging but necessary part of life. When we choose to no longer critically think about things, it becomes very easy to get carried away by the current of whatever is popular. This current will drag you along with the crowd and drop you off wherever you feel most comfortable -- usually around the people who are just like you.
Critical thinking is important to me and I will write more about it later. Right now I'd encourage you to find a friend who has a different position on a mutually important topic and take some time to understand your friend's position. You don't have to agree with it, but in the process of understanding it, you will not only better understand them but you will also better understand yourself.
The other day I had a great conversation with someone I met a few years but with whom I am just recently becoming reacquainted. As we sat there telling stories, I mentioned how I thought context was important for stories because it helps whoever you are talking to understand the whole picture. She agreed and told me that thinking that way meant that I was a painter. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant so she went on to tell me that there seemed to be two types of people: painters and pointers.
I listened as she continued describing the differences between these two types of people and how they both share and process information. Painters enjoy context. They share context and include many details in their stories and in the way that they communicate information. They want to paint a big picture so that their hearer has a richer experience and a fuller understanding of what they are trying to communicate.
Pointers, on the other hand, just like the facts. They’ll give you the bullet point list of the most important information and appreciate the same. They prefer to get straight to the point and to leave out any frivolous details that don’t support the main point of the conversation. She described a pointer that she knew that would be frustrated when she “painted a picture” rather than just providing the points.
It got me thinking about how we communicate. I’ve written about this before because it is something that I think is important. Our ability or inability to communicate has a huge impact on our ability to live together in community. So many of our problems seem to stem from an inability to both hear and be heard. We don’t recognize the differences in the ways people communicate and assume that their preferred method of communication is not only the way that everyone else communicates but also the way they should communicate.
This all leads me to reaffirm the importance of communication. We all need to continually work on making clear communication a priority. This isn’t simply working on our ability to speak clearly or provide a good argument, but also learning how to listen, process, and understand what other people are saying.
I want to add to that the importance of understanding how you communicate and present information versus the ways that other people communicate and present information. Frequently, I believe, our conflicts stems from our expectation that everyone else should communicate like we do. If we’re able to realize that there are differences in communication styles and adapt, both as speakers and as hearers, I think that we could reduce our conflict and we might actually understand what motivates other people to make their decisions and choices.
I thought this was funny in light of my post the other day on communication. (The original strip can be found here: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2013-03-19/)
With a title like that, you might expect me to explore the different theories on how people communicate or to discuss communication styles. Although it could make an interesting blog post, that's not what I'm thinking about today. Today I'm thinking about the actual, physical ways that we communicate with each other.
On my drive home from church this morning I was thinking about how much has changed in the last ten years in the way we communicate with each other. Now I'm not old, but the technological developments over the last decade are pretty impressive. Ten years ago the way we communicated with our friends and family, especially those living at a distance, was more limited. If I wanted to communicate with a friend who was living a long way from me I basically had 4 options, I could:
From this list of four, the third was the most casual and easily used. Writing an email was pretty casual too, although getting email was still cool then. The phone was more personal and also signified a closer friendship. Receiving a letter was cool, but I can't say that it happened much with my friends. I did get letters from my grandparents and it was always fun to open the letter and see what they had to say.
Today, however, the number of ways we have to communicate with each other has exploded thanks to technology and there is an even greater perceived set of social standards for the appropriateness of each method. Today we can:
The list could go on and on as you started including all of the various smaller social media sties as well as the various apps that are available for our phones today.
There are "rule for engagement" with all of these different forms of communication. Some people you would send an instant message, some people you'd text message, others it may just be a Facebook message or tweet.
According to some people the rules become more complicated when the person you're communicating with is someone you like and would like to get to know better a.k.a. a potential date. Now you have to decide from all of your options: "Do I call them?" or "Maybe I should just send them a text." or "I think a cute Facebook message is a good choice." Then you have to worry about timing. Was it too soon that it appeared to be overeager or too late that it seemed to be disinterested? They can all make us nervous and cause us to avoid communication all together.
Ultimately, it is very easy to worry too much about our self-imposed rules for communication. While each of these tools is a great enhancement for our ability to communicate, there is really nothing better than being face to face with someone and experiencing the richness of full body communication that comes through tone, gestures, expression, posture, and body language in addition to the spoken word. It seems to be something that we often avoid in favor of our more impersonal tools for communicating. I think we'd be surprised at how much we'd learn if we spent more time really communicating with each other!
My name is Tom. I'm fascinated by the ways that people, ideas, current events and theology interact with each other.