One of my favourite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi, ”Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Those words can apply in a lot of different areas, but let’s explore it as it pertains to communication. I’ve noticed that much of the tension we experience in life can be traced back to a breakdown in communication. Our relationships are strained every time we muzzle our own voice or don’t listen when someone really needs us to hear. Miscommunication muddies the waters further, when we think we understand what’s going on, but actually don’t. Sometimes we can find this out in painfully humbling ways. Bottom line, effective communication is one of those key building blocks of solid, healthy relationships. That includes more than just individuals; families, workplaces, and communities can all benefit from honest, respectful dialogue. Our ears open in that environment, we’re also better able to articulate our thoughts, points and ideas. As fabulous a tool as tension is in a novel (says the writer), in real life it blows. We can make a positive difference in our relationships when we say what we mean and listen like we actually care.This project has unwittingly given plenty of opportunity for misunderstandings. I remember once texting Dave back regarding edits and word choices with no idea that what I had perceived as a simple two sentence reply was loaded with what he took as implied grump. I got an immediate call for clarity. We could laugh about it then and I’m still laughing now because I know how sideways life can get when misunderstandings occur. We dodged a bullet by Dave simply asking for clarity and me answering honestly. In Chapter Four Dave discusses how integral a role honest communication played during his time in the organized crime section.Our team was a band of six brothers and one sister. The importance we placed on each other was high, it had to be. We relied on each other to ensure the safety of all involved and our bond was tight. Through the years we were there to support each other; through the passing of loved ones, the births of new ones, all the while knowing it was in each of us to make sure the others went home no worst for wear. We all understood what the others were going through and when a member of the team expressed concerns, we all listened.I came to learn that having a support mechanism was critical to our overall health and well being. Unlike the Hollywood concept of having a handler tame the “too-deep” undercover operator, our support mechanism came by way of regular debriefings within the team itself. Each of us were strong, confident personalities and our debriefs were rarely about butterflies and hugs. We would often disagree about how things should be done and openly shared our critiques of how each did. These were always honest and for the most part, healthy discussions. At the end of the day (or night), our practice was to not only debrief each other, but also air out any dirty laundry in what I affectionately came to know as big boy debriefs. Leaving pride and ego at the door, we would all meet in a safe location to discuss the day’s events. Feelings would sometimes get bruised and guys would fall on the sword if they needed to. But being able to just say it as it was, diplomacy and political correctness aside, was our way of ensuring that we all were performing at our highest levels and learning through our mistakes. There was never mincing of words, which was a good thing, and those debriefs kept each of us on our toes and perhaps more importantly, kept us honest with each other, even if sometimes our pride got battered in the process.Those debriefings taught me that the risk of offending never out weighed the risk of not learning from our mistakes and honestly sharing how we were feeling.
Back to Gandhi. Are there areas in your life that could use better communication? Sure, right? By being an attentive listener you create a space for someone else to be heard. That is gold. As so often happens, that action empowers a reciprocal attentiveness. Sometimes positive change just needs that one person to give it a go to start those worthwhile dominoes.It’s been a crowded week, thanks for hanging in there as this post got elbowed and jostled back. We’ll have something for you next week.Until then, Sarah