The Gift of Communication
Imagine being in a foreign country, all alone, and you don’t speak or understand the language. The sense of isolation and frustration would likely overcome you. You couldn’t meet your needs, nor could you connect with any other person there.
Like most of our abilities, communication is one we don’t think too much about. We simply speak, listen, think, formulate a response and speak again. It just happens. We communicate, we interact; we connect.
Except when we don’t.
Sometimes, it’s not so easy to speak, listen, formulate a response or speak again.
Sometimes, any one or all of these abilities are impaired. These amazing abilities of your amazing human body are not to be taken for granted, but often, they are.
I am guilty, too. I take mine for granted.
Like every other ability, our amazing human bodies provide us with the capacity and power to engage our brains and muscles to create desired actions. In turn, we achieve desired results. In terms of communication, we engage. We connect. We express ourselves to other human beings.
Most of the time, we don’t even think about it. If we couldn’t connect, we would feel isolated and alone, misunderstood—or not understood at all, and frustrated.
So let’s think about it.
Let’s consider for a moment that hundreds of muscles have to engage in perfect timing in order to speak a single word. We have to breathe in, push that air back out and up through our vocal cords, on through our mouths, shape our mouths using our lips, tongue and jaws in order to create the sounds of our language.
Then, after we have spoken, we have to listen.
We have to engage our sense of hearing, pay attention, decode the sounds we hear and make sense out of them so that we can turn around and do it all over again with our response.
We recently celebrated Nurse’s Week. They deserve more honor and respect than any of them will ever get. Hopefully, they are recognized for the amazing work they do.
The month of May also brings recognition to these very abilities we have just covered: Better Speech and Hearing Month is observed every May.
Most of us don’t engage in behaviors that endanger any of these abilities, such as overuse of vocal cords by screaming, listening to loud music or NOT wearing ear protection when we are exposed to loud sounds. Most of us know better, and we act accordingly.
Unless we don’t.
So, if you need to be reminded of those very things that your mother always told you to do—or not do, then I’m here to do it:
- Don’t abuse your voice by straining it.
- Don’t turn your music up too loud.
- Use ear protection when you are using loud machinery such as a lawn mower.
- Practice good oral hygiene in order to keep those sparkly whites sparkling. You’ll need them not just for chewing, but for speaking effectively as well.
- Brush your teeth. You don’t have to floss all your teeth every day, just the ones you want to keep.
- Drink enough water every day. Whether or not your mother knew it, this is essential for good vocal cord health, as well as good overall health.
- You have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk. Listening is more powerful than speaking. We learn by listening. We learn nothing by talking.
- When you do talk, however, be sure to face your communication partner and make eye contact. Ensuring that you have their attention can make the difference between effective communication and a missed message—and perhaps some hard feelings.
- Be aware of background noise. If you have music or the television in the background, this may distract from the other person’s ability to hear you. Wind, traffic and any other external noise can be a factor as well.
- Be aware of your communication partner’s hearing ability. If they have difficulty hearing, you may need to adjust your volume accordingly.
- Use those teeth you brush at least twice daily to chew your food slowly and thoroughly. Your stomach will thank you.
- If you are using earbuds/earphones, don’t turn up the volume too loud. This sound is piped directly into your ears, and it can cause great damage if too loud.
- In the right amounts, ear wax is a blessing. It catches dirt and foreign materials—like bugs—before they can get into your ear. And for the love of your mother, don’t stick a Q-tip or any other pointy swab into your ear. If your ear is blocked with wax, let a medical professional deal with it. Don’t risk injuring your eardrum with a swab.
Imagine again being in that foreign country where you don’t speak or understand the language, and nobody there understands yours. You would be totally disconnected from the human group.
Communication—speaking, listening, understanding and responding–allows us to be a part of the human group via this amazing connection. Be grateful for it. Be aware of the gift that it is. Appreciate it and exercise it in socially appropriate ways while you have it. Like all of our amazing abilities, it may not be there forever.