Sunday, October 10, 2010

Finding the Right Frequency In Which to Dialogue Is Not Easy

A columnist writing in the Catholic Times on spiritual themes reminds us that  failure to communicate well is often a failure in accepting and sharing what another brings to a conversation--a failure that is sometimes described as not tuning in to the "right frequencies" the other is projecting.  It is similar, the columnist believes, to what happens when an impatient child plays with the dial of a radio, going back and forth rather frantically, and when not finding what he wants, becoming frustrated.  Getting just static, the child feels defeated and turns off the radio.  A bit later he again turns the radio on only to be greeted with the same static; the columnist asked what he was trying to do.
"I can't find what I want anymore, the boy says." Finding out what station the child wanted, the columnist slowly turned the dial to the number of the station the child wanted--and without the static.

Frequency is not only part of the world of radio but also necessary in our conversations.   Deep and satisfying conversation requires the correct  frequency otherwise you may have  static and frustration. When a person is  concerned  about  the right or wrong, and the other with  the good and bad,  dialogue is difficult.  Also what  is good can be  seen as bad to another; what is wrong can be seen as right, and the right thing may not be considered the loving thing. Often one can't  accommodate a firm commitment to justice with the emotion of love.

This is the dilemma we are faced with in much of our interactions with others. Even in families, where we would expect it easier to tune in to a common emotional frequency, the experience of many tells us that it is, not infrequently, more difficult.  But honest, deeply shared dialogue wherever it occurs can foster a deeper relationship with others. It is an art that some have learned and many have not; when it becomes part of how we live in the world, it can give us comfort, inspiration and great joy. However, achieving  this heart-to-heart dialogue is not  easy. For Christians our prayer life  prepares us for sharing at the deepest level what we all share in common by virtue of being Christians. It should guide us always into earnest and frank dialogue.

Commication problems, as we all know, are part of life and cause much anguish. Many times it is the non-verbal frequencies that precede the verbal that sometimes are so loud that our words are not heard. We forget that our personal experiences also have a great effect on what we hear or fail to hear. McLuhan's message that the "medium is the message"  has something important to teach us.  Faith as a medium should help us to tune in to the right frequency more times than not. Once we rest in this medium of faith as the primary message, all other messages that are exchanged will be seen as contained within this primary message. Efforts to go to a deeper level in our conversations  are worth all the  time and energy that we can muster.

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