Communication – Our Emerging International Society

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

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Communication is a necessary and primary skill in life. The old truism, “no man is an island”, is particularly appropriate in a world that is developing porous borders. This will make our communication skills crucial as we cross the barriers of culture, society, language, philosophy and religion, gender, sexuality, economics, politics, legalities and health – to name a few. The diversity of the human race is fascinating, yet complicated and at times frustrating. The international melting pot that mankind has become had its beginning centuries ago with seafaring explorations that connected all continents and areas on this globe we call home.

Driven by curiosity, creativity, need, commercial interests and more, the explorers set out on their journeys with a goal or an end result in mind. Yes, they wanted to explore because we are a curious lot. However, building, outfitting and maintaining a vessel and a crew took time, effort and money and that investment was to be repaid by what was developed or discovered during the journey. The explorers and their crews were prepared for hard work, difficult conditions, uncertainty, danger and even a fight to the death, should it become necessary. Many who set out to explore never survived the unknown and their particular investors lost the gamble. As a rule, explorers and their crews understood they were commissioned to make the trip worthwhile for both the investors and their country’s leader as well.

It should have been exciting to learn of new cultures, but the explorers were a hardy bunch, not necessarily skilled in the nuances of society. Not all introductions of explorers and indigenous people went smoothly, due in part to a lack of communication. The developed exploring countries had an enormous advantage in the technology of their day with skilled workers, and they used the advantage they had to enforce their own terms as they encountered less modernized and skilled societies. While conversation may have been a good avenue, pure might triumphed over right and less developed societies fell victim to the explorers and their goals. It has been a sad commentary on society that we used such a negative solution in light of the loss of languages, customs, music, ritual, philosophy and individual skills – treasures of humanity that can never be recovered. At times mankind is not too bright.

With the introduction of the airplane and the shrinking of the barrier of distance, the spread of a homogenous international community has ballooned dramatically. We are edging closer and closer to completion of a total melding and not everyone is happy. Our homeland, our cultural values, our languages and customs are valuable to us and we want to preserve and honor them. We don’t speak each other’s language that well and besides, words don’t always convey the full meaning of what we are thinking or saying. Exact translation from one language or culture to another doesn’t exist on many levels. We must apply ourselves to understanding each other, and that is a very demanding people skill.

Look around you at the diversity of people, their thoughts and the words used to express who they are and what they think or believe. Within our own country, we have so many different cultures and belief systems that we don’t even understand our citizen neighbors. Imagine that cultural divide and the languages used to bridge that divide between different societies.

The way to success in developing these communication skills is to know that there is more than one way to think, say, feel, express any thought and that each way is thought to be the right way by the user. Due to the living of life, people are conditioned by their circumstance, family, society, beliefs, station in life and experience. For example, if throughout my life I have been conditioned by my family or my culture to be polite, that is a characteristic that may not be understood by others who did not have my personal conditioning. If I am not treated in the polite manner to which I am accustomed, I may not understand my less-than-polite treatment by that other person. Such a simple misunderstanding can interfere with our communication, thwart a friendship, or perhaps develop an enemy.

Many years ago, I shared a chocolate candy with my co-workers. It tasted good and I do love chocolate. Later I learned it was chocolate covered ants. They chewed like a crispy chocolate bar. Nothing was wiggling while I had it in my mouth, but the very idea caused my very pregnant self to run for any way possible to spit it out. In some societies, my action of ejecting the offensive would have been a direct insult, but there would have been no intent to insult on my part. I was lucky, my co-workers were pranksters and expected my reaction. It could have then been my turn to be insulted by that prank. See what happened here? Something simple such as cultural conditioning or common habit can get in the way of basic communication. The incident and the potential of misunderstanding could have easily gotten out of hand and escalated into a real problem. I’m so glad it did not.

As we develop this homogenous society of mankind, we are going to have to develop our communication skills way beyond our current level. We will have to look at all the conditioning factors that are part of the barriers we are attempting to remove. You and I, as divergent as our conditioning, language, philosophy, etc. may be, must reach past those factors which act as barriers and actually communicate with one another.

Published on EZine online December, 2019, republished with slight editing.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.