A statement that tends to really help me frame communication is one that I read quite some time ago. I wish that I could remember exactly where I read it so that I could reference it here, but even though I don’t know the exact source, I clearly remember the sentiment. It is that all relationships are based on communication. And even more important, that all relationships are strengthened OR destroyed, one conversation at a time.
When I first read that statement, I was very humbled. I thought back to three or four recent conversations that I had had and I assessed whether they had been building or destroying conversations. I would love to say that I have only had building up or strengthening conversations. However, that is not true for me. This is a very good mini exercise to do. It’s a great snapshot of life.
I suspect that all of us have had several (dozen perhaps?) tearing down conversations. Sometimes these happen in the midst of heated discussions. But there are other times when they simply happen because of carelessness. We may be distracted and not give our full attention to the other person. This often sends a message that we do not care; the reality may be that we do care but that our attention is simply somewhere else. However, the result is the same – a relationship destroying conversation.
If we only have one of these conversations every so often, there is not very likely permanent damage to a relationship. However, if they become a habit, if we become careless with our conversations, the end result is often not what we hope for.
Lately I have heard about a number of long term relationships that have come to an end. Some of these were professional, most were personal. Most of them have not ended because of one defining moment or action. On the other hand, most have ended because bit by bit, over time, the relationships were destroyed one conversation at a time.
The relationship that conversations have to relationships over time can be compared to the similar effect that water or wind has on the landscape over time – no visible change on a daily basis, but huge change over the years. Several weeks ago, Elephant Rock, one of the more famous flowerpot rock formations, in Hopewell Cape, NB, came crashing down, erasing a landmark that had brought tourists from around the world to see it. There had been no catastrophic event to precipitate this. No doubt there had been some cracks in this rock. And one night in March, the regular action of the tide was too much. If water was a voice, I wonder if this final wave was a shout or just a thoughtless remark.
In the upcoming week, I imagine that each of us will have hundreds of conversations. My challenge for you this week is to choose one of those conversations, preferably one that has the potential to become a ‘destroying’ conversation, and consciously create a ‘building up’ conversation. Take a minute to observe the effect that it has –both on you and on the other person.