Thursday, July 31, 2014


Articles by a professor of ethics continue to appear in the diocesan bulletin on  communication. In the past, he outlined the conditions for communication, this week he considered the structures for communication. To be at the same eye level as the  persons with whom you want to  communicate is the expression he uses, for him  basic to the structure of communication is reciprocity. If one is strong and the other weak, of higher or lower  rank, and this is not overcome, we do not have the reciprocity but the danger of tyranny.

He uses the example of anthropologists who when they visit the natives of an area behave differently than travelers. They relate very naturally, freely and deeply with the natives. They work to be on the same level as the natives which  enables the natives to open up to the anthropologists. They look at the environment with the eyes of the natives. When those who come see themselves as civilized and feel superior, look at the natives with pity, the natives will not be open. This being at the level of the other is difficult.

What is the meaning of being at the same eye level? Matching the eye level of the other means to be  equal with the other. I have to have the same respect for him as I have for myself. He is not me, and I am not him; we are different, and we respect this difference and see it as important, all a part of the equality of the parties. The ability to do this is the sign of our maturity. The maturity of this relationship will also determine the quality of the discussion.

Parents and teachers to communicate with the children and young people will have to acquaint themselves with the need to match the eye level of those with whom they are relating. Just looking at it physically, the children are going to be intimidated. The children are not able  to be at the eye level of the adults, so from reason the adults have to lower themselves to the level of the child. If the communication doesn't develop, the professor says, it is because of the inability to lower themselves to the level of the child. Parents and teachers when the problems are not solved often fail to realize it is their inability to understand the child that is the problem.

Vertical, hierarchical order of our society, authoritarianism, makes the matching of eye levels very difficult. This equality is seen best in the relationship between friends. But even here we have the equality of similarity, and inadvertently both   vying with each other, which can make the  relationship tiring. Our society has difficulty helping us to react with each other at eye level.

The description of what it means to have the structures in place to communicate are clear, but because of our character weaknesses, the obstacles seem insurmountable. Acknowledgement of the facts would go a long way in improving the position we  find ourselves in when trying to communicate.

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