The Medium is the Message


copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.

It happened once, twice; I trust the third time could not charm me more.  I have witnessed the power of a gesture, one made without words.  I have seen the light that glows when people connect in quiet ways.  Now experienced on more than one occasion, I have come to appreciate the peaceful power of consistent communication.  I had not fully acknowledged what could be accomplished until I arrived on the scene, alone.  Then I saw it.  I felt it.  I could hardly believe that a single steadfast individual, could convey a message without words, and still receive such a resounding response.  Yet, while there, it occurred.  I was struck by what had not been apparent for near a decade. The stance of a quiet soul, stated calmly, clearly, and with care, can move more persons than I ever imagined.  

Perchance, reliability is the reason. Indeed, I know that advertisers say a message when reiterated establishes credibility, familiarity, and becomes the first thought when a need is realized.  The accepted business standard is “The importance of repetition in advertising is huge.”  However, I am not in business.  I have no product to sell, no services to offer.  All that I wish to produce is peace.

As I said, this tale began years ago.  I started to stand vigil at a local South Florida Peace Corner.  I have continued to do so for years.  Indeed, I still do.  Long ago, many of us actively sought global harmony.  Today there are far fewer.  We are fortunate to have six persons frequent the scheduled Saturday events I am  one who, in a fifty-two week period, misses only a handful of demonstrations.  

Even with just a few demonstrators, we do what we have done for all this time.  With signs in hand, we proclaim our desire for peace.  Most stand on the Southwest, shady side of a busy intersection.  I, on the other hand, place myself at the Northwest curbside.  I choose to stand alone.

I do not wish to converse with my fellow activists when I am at, what for me is, a sacred service.  I prefer to engage the persons who pass me by.  Hence, I walk across the road, hold high my hand painted poster, and present the peace sign to those who pass me.  In the traditional form of a thumb crossed under the upraised first and second fingers, whilst the ring and pinky digits are curled into the palm of my hand, I greet people with the written words, “Love!  Not War. Love!  Audibly, I thank each individual who silently, with a V-sign gesture, or a beep, shares the sentiment.

When the weekly ritual began, it appeared there was ample support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Combative causes were believed to be apt.  That is for most.  Tranquil beings thought the actions were an anathema.  Those outspoken on the subject took to the streets.  It was discovered that many who walked by, or drove past, were inspired to participate.  A few would exit their automobiles and ask, “Might I join you.”  Others, out for a stroll, would stop, chat, and then say, “I am with you.”  Literally, these people often would look for a poster, or make one with whatever was available.

Thus, a collection of signs was created. Anyone who wanted to show solidarity for soldiers and civilians in harms way, could grab one.  Concerned citizens came weekly and then, more so in the last 365 days, they did not.   I however, cannot forego what for me is a commitment.  I promised myself I would walk the path towards peace.  Hence, each Saturday, I leave my home and head to the Corner.

A smaller congregation did not affect me, or so I thought.  Unexpectedly, the sign situation brought a newer reality and the realization I now share. While I did not stand with others, I was not alone.  Nor was I totally separate from the tranquil throng.  I always understood that my fellow protestors and I were connected; however I thought the bond was but peripheral.

I was more aware of my relationship with passer-bys.  The people who looked at me as I glazed upon them were meaningful to me.  They still are.  We commune.  I, without distraction, or conversation, focus on the eyes of every being who walks, rides a bicycle, or drives by.  Slowly, over time, I learned to recognize a few regular travelers.  These individuals became known to me, and me to them.  Admittedly, we knew each other only as faces who frequently smiled and waved.  Some met me with scorn.  Nonetheless, for me, life was good!  Isolated in my little world on the North side of the street was wondrous.  

At least it was, until two weeks ago.  Each week, I walk to the Peace Corner.  I need the exercise.  A back injury necessitates brisk strolls, besides a workout clears the mind and air.  Also, I prefer to be environmentally conscious.  Therefore, I am not the one who carries a very large and heavy bag of signs.  Someone with a vehicle has always been the provider of posters.  Granted, over the years, the signs have been transferred from one carrier to another and then, back again.  Since my situation prohibits participation in this exchange, I am not considered a prime candidate for the traditional banner swap.

Consequently, if I arrive at the Peace Corner before others I can choose to wait for a sign, or do as I did recently.  Cross the intersection.  Go to what I think of as my own littler Peace Corner.  Extend my digits in the sign of a V and hope people respond.  In the past when I thought to do this, the need was quickly dashed.  The person with the signs arrived.  

Only once did I have to wait more than mere minutes.  On that rainy day, I had an automobile.  I drove to a store, purchased poster board and markers, then made my own banner.  On that day, as in all the weeks and years before, I was convinced only words would work to communicate my vision.  I thought I understood what is true in South Florida and how that might affect my “audience,” the people who passed by it in a car, on a bicycle, in a wheel car, or only on two feet.

Be it amongst the peace people, or those who travel the streets of Florida, the community changes. When the weather is warm, the Everglades State looks somewhat empty.  When it is cold in the North, people journey south.  Thus, those I see each Saturday are not necessarily neighbors, friends, or family.  Likely, I will never meet a Jane, John, José, Juanita, or others, who sees me at the Peace Corner.  Janeka and Jared are just as anyone else, a blurred vision who enters and exits my life before we can truly connect.  

Conversations at the crossroads, while welcome, are rare.  To those who travel ’round the block, I am but a person who stands on the street on Saturday’s with a sign that reads, “Love!  Not War.  Love!”  Even to some of those who once gathered at the Peace Corner, I may only be the woman, dressed in all white, who occupies the Northwest curb.  Yet, surprisingly to me, on two occasions now, that might has been enough to inspire a thought, to evoke a response, and to energize persons who have not seen me before.

As of today, twice, on a Saturday, I walked to the Peace Corner and discovered I was alone.  The bag of signs, and other activists were absent.  After minutes, still no one appeared. I wondered; what would I do.  In each instance, without a word, I crossed to the Northwest side of the juncture.  I held up my fingers in the sign of peace, as I moved with traffic.  

I looked at those who trekked South, and persons who passed going west.  I hoped for a sign of support and acknowledgement.  I found much!

As I experienced the energy, I contemplated the characteristic concept of messaging.  Research reveals, the message, at least in advertisements, is said to be “irrelevant.”  While I, personally, think the term is troublesome, for I trust that all aspects of an issue or a statement are important, the theory put forth was, for me, fascinating.

Public announcements, pronouncements, or promotions  “which were low on emotional content had no effect on how favourable the public were towards” the product, the person who proposed a practice, even if the poster, or visual proclamation “was high in news and information.”  In other words, my statements, the phraseology painted on my sign, was, relatively speaking, insignificant in the scope of what occurred.  

What mattered more was the emotionally charged subject, the sight of a sensitive soul who silently stands vigil for peace.  Consistency counts.  I faithfully appear each week, stand in the same spot, and offer the identifiable hand symbol.  Also, I choose to carry a single sign week after week, month after month, and year, after year.  I always remain calm, and quiet.  I am never confrontational, and possibly, it is significant that more often than not, I stand unaccompanied.  For Saturday memorials held in homage to global harmony, I dress in nothing but white.  The hue recognizably represents peace.  Dye duplication, I discern, accentuates the theme.

However, what I had not considered may be more important.  The subject I broach evokes emotion, as does my manner.  I thank all who acknowledge me with kindness.  Since my focus is on faces, and not on conversations with my peers, I can and do involve myself, or my the medium, which, as Mister McLuhan would offer, is an extension of me in “human affairs.”  My more recent enterprise, sans placard, introduced the novelty that could affect attitudes.  If nothing else, it was noticed.  An abundance of people expressed appreciation for someone small in stature, who stands on a street corner only to show support for the notion of peace.

For so long I believed my signage was my strength.  Now I realize that other nuances speak more loudly than the written word.  The subjects of War and Peace are emotional ones.  Others who observe a little lass, dressed in white, who waves with love in her eyes might choose to empathize, to express exasperation, or to take no notice of a reality they wish to escape.

The effects are palpable, as are the feelings, those of the individuals who respond to the message, and my own.. My presence is familiar to regular travelers. My visible commitment may cause them to comment or counter.  Subtlety might have been the more significant statement to those not acquainted with my weekly pilgrimage.  I cannot be certain why people react as they have.

Nonetheless, I now understand, all that I trusted to be true might not have been.  The weight was not in the words I had boldly painted on my poster board.  It is as Marshall McLuhan understood all along. “it is only too typical that the “content” of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.”  As McLuhan’s acumen screamed, “The medium is the message.”

The words in my written communication were never the motivator.  These were but an inspiration, an invitation, and a confirmation.  In ”War and Peace in the Global Village,” published in 1968, Mister McLuhan presented a collection of epigrams and pictures.  He offered the possibility, that “war is an involuntary quest for identity.” Perchance, a peaceful action is as well.  People may find their sense of self in an opportunity to speak to world harmony.  If true, that would be the charm,

I trust that peace on the planet may not appear on a first, second, or third trial.  Nonetheless, I have faith that the light that glows when people connect in quiet ways will come.  I have seen it, once, twice, and maybe this week, it will come again.

The medium.  The message.  The references . . .

Nuptials Never; “I Do” Commit to Communicate


copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.

I write this reflection on, what in years past; I would have considered a couple’s certain doomsday.  Within hours, Alex and Alia will walk down the aisle and take their vows.  Will May 2, 2009, be the day of deliverance for the two, one of delight, or the beginning of the end?  I know not.  I only understand that on this date, the pair will do, as I purposefully never planned to.  They will wed.  I have not met either of these individuals; yet today I can think of nothing but their lives and the effect they have had on me.  

I became aware of Alex and Alia, A2, for short, while on an airplane headed for The Toddling Town.  It was Friday, March 27, 2009.  Neither the man who will become a husband today, nor the woman, who will be declared his wife, was physically present.  Indeed, I may never see the persons who sincerely moved me to rethink whether I might say, “I do”.  Perhaps, they know nothing of what began as an innocent encounter.  The Earth did not shake, and certainly, I never expected my conviction to crumble.  Indeed essentially my belief did not evolve.  In truth, nothing actually changed.  Still, after a three-hour exchange, I began to more seriously consider what for all of my live I rejected, marriage.

I am the third child of parents who parted ten days after a twenty-year marriage.  I was eight years of age at the time.  I remember the moment of their decision as though it was but minutes ago.  I can easily relive the conversation that changed my existence.  Indeed, the entire incident never leaves my consciousness.  As my Mom disgustedly rose from the restaurant table, I knew that nuptials do not bring togetherness.  A legal commitment will not ensure quality communication.  From the second she stated she was leaving, until, well, forever, I knew I would not wed.

Then, decades later, there was a time in the month of March.  On that day, a stranger and I were in route to Chicago.  As occurs on any and many journeys, people who might never make an acquaintance sit side-by-side and chat incessantly.  The individuals may tell all and then fade from sight forever, or they may do as oddly enough my plane mate and I did, come together on the return trip and again, talk for many hours more.

For me, the travel is a frequent excursion.  It has been for years.  My most cherished confidant resides in the “Windy City.” While he and I have shared our heart and soul for decades, we had not wed.  Early on in our association the thought was far from either of our minds.  Each of us saw the other in a way that was far from physically intimate.  While our lives were deeply intertwined, a corporeal involvement would have been an abhorrent thought.  Time, much talk, realizations about what was once repugnant transformed our truths, but not my fervent reality. I would never marry.

Ela, unlike me, had happily embarked on a trek through holy matrimony.  Now, she was ready to take another extraordinary trip.  She would watch her son, Alex, follow the path she and her husband Robert had chosen.  Alex too would wed.  In prelude, on this auspicious occasion, Ela was set to attend a party in honor of her soon-to-be daughter-in-law.  Although, at the time of our first encounter I knew nothing of the imminent nuptial, had I been aware of the event it would not have changed my mind.  Marriage would not be my idea of an ideal and today it is still not!  

When I boarded the plane I had a singular notion.  Once in the air, I intended to sleep.  I could not imagine that Ela’s energy would captivate me more than my desire to nap had.  With only a few short hours of rest the evening before, and a full day on the agenda, I felt a need for some slumber

Yet, from the moment Ela asked if the chair next to me was taken, until the time she settled in, after placing her bags in the overhead bins, it was apparent, Ela and all that was within her would revise my reality.  I could see this creature loves life.  She genuinely enjoys her partner of more than forty years, Robert.  Her affection for her progeny was and is evident in her every breath.  Ela’s admiration, appreciation, and her sincere approval for Alex’s choices were, and are, palpable.  I felt Ela exuded empathy; at least for those she felt close to.  When she spoke of the man she shared her being with for two score, or their offspring, who is near thirty now, only fondness filled the air.

As I listened to her words and studied her actions I marveled.  At least for Ela, a legal commitment had not quashed her independence.  While she excitedly spoke of her family and the future event, these were not all she had on her mind.  Indeed, initially we did not discuss the May marriage other than in passing.

Ela herself was obviously independent from her husband.  Her son Alex’s accomplishments while wondrous were not more important or incredible than her own.  Ela presented no pageantry.  She was not pompous, quite the contrary.  As we talked, I became acquainted with a woman who seemed as ordinary as any other being might.  Yet, slowly it was revealed Ela is an extremely well-educated and credentialed individual.  

In her professional career, this unassuming individual rose to a very prominent position.  From the first, I experienced her eloquence, her quick mind, her sensitivity to nuances not verbalized, and her desire to learn.  Immediately, when inspired to investigate a subject further, Ela took copious notes.

The woman herself, long before she shared details of what Alex and Alia had done and would do, was wondrous to me.  Perhaps that is why her excitement for nuptials took me beyond where I had been all of my life.  Hours of conversation with this confident, compassionate, insightful being helped me to consider my long-held belief in a way I had not fully explored.

Ela was not her marriage.  She was not a wife and mother more than she was herself.  She was separate and equal; Ela was the sum of her parts, and perchance, to a certain extent a bit more.  Possibly, that was the reason I reflected on this encounter and what it might mean to me in ways I had not before when I spoke to others of a legal bond [bondage].  

For decades, I have heard excited brides gush, grateful grooms boast, prideful mothers and fathers of the betrothed flaunt.  As I listen, I wonder; what they will say far into the future.  “She is a bit**!”  “He a bas****.” “We were too young at the time.”  “I was blinded by love and should have known better.”  When asked why a couple separates, divorcees who later declare them selves happily single, offer the oft-avowed explanation, “We just grew apart.” It seems an accepted veracity that this just happens.  People evolve and chose distinct and different paths.

I believe and have observed as my Mom, ultimately, a twice-divorced damsel never in distress, admits of her escapades.  People can predict.  All one needs to know of another is apparent early on.  Even without awareness for who a person is in depth and detail, a few conversations, a day trip or two can tell us much about the person who pretends to be perfect.  What persons portend is perhaps a far truer picture of whom they are within.  As Mommy often mused, we choose to convince ourselves that what we wish to believe is correct.

Infatuation, lust, a longing to leave our current circumstances, convenience, customs, the desire for companionship, all conjure up notions of wedded bliss.  The desire for romance often rules over a rational reason.

Whilst in a state of euphoria, already anxious over what might be, people have faith.  Nuptials will bring the best into their lives.  If only that were true.  In most instances, it is not.  One need only consider the divorce and separation statistics, or the number of spouses who say they are miserable in their marriage.

I trust intendeds expect to live together ’til death do they part.  Few of the many who part in acrimony anticipate such a split.  I can only assume most are unlike me. All I ever imagined was if I entered into a marriage, the relationship would change.  A legal union would build barriers around me.  Possibly, he would feel constrained, chained, or caged as well.  Restrictions, even self-imposed, would be realized.  I feared what my spouse would sense as much as what I might experience.

When I contemplated nuptials, I could not envision a rhyme or reason for such a sacrifice.  At least, for me, matrimony seemed madness.  Did I mention the studies show a toxic marriage may literally hurt your heart?  Yikes!  I prefer good health and genuine happiness.  I totally love my own company and take pleasure in the tranquility I have created.

Too often I heard tales or saw those close to me conclude, “I need to escape for the sake of the children, his or her physical or intellectual health, and for my sanity, or ours.”  Papers would be filed.  There would be a formal dissolution.  Pain for someone, anyone, or everyone would be profound.  It was for me.  

There was no violence in my childhood home.   Physical, emotional, and, or verbal abuses were alien concepts.  In our abode life was calm, cozy, and comfortable.  Yet, not everyone, if anyone, was authentically happy.  Outwardly, it appeared that my parents and their progeny thrived.  We existed.  My family went through the motions.  Inwardly some of us died.

Before my parents decided to divorce, I was uncertain why I felt as I did when with my family.  Years of anecdotes from my parents who were no longer each other’s spouse and from my siblings helped me decide.  I would never dare do what Alex and Alia thought wise; enter into what I thought a legal lock on my life. A commitment, regardless of a formal ceremony, frightened me.  It still does.  

Before my parent’s divorce I saw too much, heard more, and understood why a legal union was not for me.  After, the split my awareness intensified.  I contemplated the home life of friends.  What seemed solid and sane, before I looked beneath the surface, was often stressful and strenuous.   No words of joy about one nuptial or another had, could, or would sway me.  People often profess happiness and hide hurts.  

Hence, it is no wonder that Ela’s deep devotion to husband and son, as well as her fervor for her future family did not transform me.  Nor did her tales touch my truth.  For all of my live, others have shared similar passions.  In a euphoric moment, people present tales of family, fiancés, and a feeling of fulfillment within the framework of matrimony.  Yet, I came to realize excitement over an individual faded fast.  At times, all that was publicly stated proved to be but a façade.  Hence, I had no reason to trust that Ela’s veracity would be different.

However, there was an aspect of her enthusiasm that varied from the usual.  Ela’s dedication to her own being brought me to a place where I could see me, myself in a relationship recognized by the law.  Indeed, Ela’s independence was the catalyst for my novel contemplation.  Though her many accounts all that I had rejected was viewed in a new light.

The sincerity my plane-mate expressed was not as easily dismissed as the superficial statements others offered all of my live.  Indeed, the profundity of my Mom’s philosophies was more apparent when delivered by a stranger.

When Mommy chose to enter a third marriage, consciously she knew not to do as she had done in the past, wed for convenience.  On the last of her plunges into partnership, my Mom made a commitment to her best friend, someone she did not simply love, which Mommy always avowed was an emotion easily expressed, but a person she genuinely liked.

My Mom stressed; individuals intent on marriage must consider invisible issues.  She embraced a lesson learned in her first marriage; shared ethical values matter.  Everyday exchanges with the object of one’s passion, if critical, cruel, combative, confrontational, or curt will ultimately cause a relationship to crumble.  Calm, caring communication, Mommy proved through practice, creates the connection most everyone craves.

Perhaps, my history had left me too badly bruised.  On the subject of marriage, I had lost my bearings.  I had easily navigated away from any commitment to closeness. Emotionally, intellectually, and even physically I could connect, deeply.  However, my heart was not open to a lengthy, legal, what felt to be as an obligatory bondage.  In friendship, I was more than fine.  I revel in real relationships.  I always have.

My friendship with Barry, the person I was off to visit, is a constant for me   it has been for decades. He and I had pondered aloud what the two of us, might want to be.  Rather than live in two distant cities as we have in recent years, could we choose to create a combined home.  If so, where would we reside.  How might we make our time together as meaningful as it has always been?  Change, while a constant, for me holds many challenges.

The question that haunted us was could we adjust the circumstances and not alter the quality of our relationship?  A relative or two thought it possible.  Alexander, a cousin of mine whom I respect, made an argument for marriage.  I considered it, for it was as practical, as I am.  However, humans, I understand are not necessarily logical.  Emotions enter into essential considerations.

Rapport, I believe, is the root to all happiness.  I wonder if that is why my time with Ela helped transform me.  While my Mom’s last and final marriage may have alleviated some of my apprehensions, just a smidgen, I could not see her strength, her independence as I might that of a stranger.  

I smile as I recall what Ela said of her husband and her son.  She was not in awe of their achievements; I was.  Closeness, when it does not breed contempt, may give rise to comfort and complacency.   This construct might explain why the tête-à-tête with Ela transformed my truth.  Communication with a person who is not an intimate can serve to enlighten in a manner the words of a loved one do not.  A sympathetic sharing with someone who is separate from ourselves can affect us in ways we would never imagine.  Certainly, Ela had that effect on me.

When we exited the plane we were so engrossed that we continued the conversation as we walked.  Ela and I had discussed what we did, do, and dream of.  The dialogue was fluid, fun, and far from shallow.  Folly, fears, failures, and feelings entered into each narrative.  We reflected on personal strengths, weaknesses, and ways we, and those familiar to us approach life.

Perchance, I was enamored with the cosmic coincidences and our similar personal histories.  With the exception of the divorce that had dictated many of my decisions I could relate to the woman whose son will wed today.

Aware that hours from now the person who changed my life will witness another transformation, I wonder if she knows, what it was about her that moved me.   I did have the opportunity to tell her that I would say, “I do.”  However, for weeks after our shared travel I did not understand why.

Ela might believe I was in awe of the her son’s arrangement, or the art Alex created to announce the event, While wonderful, the plans and powerful presentations, did not persuade me to engage in what I still believe is the myth of matrimonial felicity.  

Who Ela is, separate and with her husband Bob, her stories of all that they are separately, and have shared together transformed my perspective, at least in part.  Still, their tale alone had not shocked me out of the abyss of apprehension.  

Once able to more objectively assess the independence of one who is happily intertwined, a treasure was revealed to me.  I came to cherish the memory of my Mom and her marital experience.  I recognized that for oh so long I empathized with her earlier wedded hurts.  I had allowed these to cloud my consciousness. When change came, I discounted the difference.  I had not fully appreciated what had become Mommy’s truth in the last three decades of her life.  

When with Ela, I was able to see Mommy and marriage through a new lens.  The woman who brought me into the world did more than conceive a creature.  My Mom imagined love and an authentic fondness could exist within a legal framework.  She did not lose her heart, her soul, or her individual identity once she dedicated herself to something greater than herself.  Just as Ela and Bob had done without regret, and as Alex and Alia will do today, Mommy said, “I do: and did it well.

After much discussion over the two days in Chicago with Barry, on March 29, 2009, I told him I would.

Hence, on the afternoon of May 2, 2009, as Ela’s son, Alex, and Alia, his fiancé, wed, I solidify plans for what Barry and I recognize as a wee bit more than a “civil” union. Already, I designed and produced a “Save the Date” magnet, as Alex did.  These have been delivered to invited guests.  The webpage, an idea inspired by Ela, Alex, and Alia is my next pursuit.

A casual observer might think I changed.  People might presume I am anxious to be wed.  Perhaps, they muse, I have become the bride who anticipates marriage will bring a better bliss.  Indeed, none of these assumptions are valid.   I have not been transformed.  A “Wedding” is still not what I want. My best friend will not become my husband and I will not be his wife.  Neither of us will have a spouse other than on paper.  I will not participate in nuptials, at least not in a conventional sense.  I [and Barry] will commit to communicate.  

On this May date, separately and together, Barry and I hope that today Alex and Alia will do as we have decided to do, grow greater with the person they like just as he or she is.

References for Relationship Realities . . .

Change Has Come


copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.

It was but a minute after the newly elected President took the “Oath of Office.”  At 12:01 Post Meridian, on January 20, 2009, the White House web page was changed.  In the spirit of a new dawn, the Oval Office gave birth to its baby.  The site entered with a scream; yet, hearts filled with joy never heard a sound.  The proud parents, the American people, could not be bothered with what in other times might have seemed to be noise.  As they looked upon their new Commander-In-Chief, most just stood in awe, amazed that they could have accomplished so much, with so little effort.  When love gives rise to greatness, sweat and tears are trivial.

A child conceived through connectedness translates into hope for an idyllic future.  Thus, today, at democracy discovered its second infancy.  Centuries ago the birthing process began.  As the country aged, it stumbled and fell often.  As a tot, she was ambitious.  The teen years were tough.  There were many tears.  Still, the adolescent survived.  As a young adult, America has experienced a deep decline, economically and emotionally we are wrought with woes.  We had forgotten the value of service.  The United States had lost its way.

Yet, there is hope.  On Election Day, as a country, we decided we could change.  We are youthful; yet, not fool hardy.  When asked if we would or could do better, collectively, this country said, “Yes we can!”  

In the words of the forty-fourth President, “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.  The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

In this vein, the United States moves from a nation divided, to one older, wiser, and united in a cause.  

As most youth do, on the path to maturity, this country has come to realize, especially after an exceedingly tumultuous trauma, the only resolution is resolve.  As a child on the precipice of life learns, “Communication” is the only cure to what ails us.

As is written at, we are eager to seek information and share our concerns.  The state of the economy, national security, and issues too expansive to imagine must be discussed.  “Transparency,” lucidity, and perspicuity must be a priority if we are to grow strong.

The United States was weakened, for too many, for too long did not “Participate” in a process that is ours alone.  If this newborn, who nearly perished, is to ever return from the brink of disaster we must come together for a common cause. As the “current” President, Barack Obama avows, and knows from his experience as a Community Organizer, “Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that.”

Today, as the nation makes a major turn, history is born anew.  Please visit what is the American people’s home, the birthplace of the lovely baby,

  • What Pulls Us Apart

    Defending Islam at a McCain rally

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.

    It was a cool Fall evening in South Florida.  The breeze was gentle; the sunset glorious.  As I approached the intersection where, each weekend I stand in support of peace and tranquility, I did as I do when at this crossroad.  I placed my arm out the window.  My digits were extended and formed the symbol associated with serenity.  When I am in a vehicle, at the locale commonly considered the Peace Corner I work to preserve the intent of my Saturday mission.  I strive to advance awareness for the notion, this nation remains at war.  Soldiers are slaughtered far from the shores of home sweet home.  Civilians, in their native country continue to lose their lives for a want of war.  I crave global harmony and will work to restore some sense of civility worldwide.  However, as I sat silently in contemplation cries of “Country First” startled me.

    The divisiveness that has become pervasive during this political season  smacked me in the face.  Shaken, I turned to see where the words of contempt might have come from.  There they stood, two young boys, perhaps eleven years of age stood on the sidewalk with homemade signs in hand.  “McCain Palin” was painted on a poster.  Smaller type, difficult to read from even a short distance, said more.  I might pretend to portend what the words were meant to communicate.  However, I rather not assume.  I can only describe what was said and done as the seconds on the street turned into minutes.

    As others had done when they passed me with my peaceful placard for oh so many years, I expressed my belief in a manner that might be visible to these youthful demonstrators.  I reached for my Obama sign, which is neatly tucked between my windshield and the dashboard.  I held the glossy rectangular navy blue sticker up, my arm stretched beyond the side of the automobile.  The near Middle School age gents immediately saw my marker and exclaimed.  “He is a Muslim!”  

    I calmly cried, “No, he is not.  Barack Obama is a Christian.”  “However,” I continued, even if he were as you seem to believe, why would that matter?”  ”  Do you really wish to be intolerant of other religions?”  “What of our rights as afforded by the United States Constitution?”  Perhaps as one who taught Junior High School students for so long, an invitation to discuss seemed ideal to me.  These young people, not familiar with me, and my love of open and reverent conversations were intent on repeating the rhetoric they likely heard in their homes.

    I could not help but wonder would the words Communist, Socialist, or terrorist, pass through the lips of these lads.  Might one boy or the other tell me as drivers had days ago when I stood on the corner in vigil for peace,  “Barack Obama is Black”?  My mind raced as I reflected upon the two chaps.  I realized the issues important to them were those the elders they loved had discussed at length.  Human as the young men were they knew what they knew.  The adolescents were taught to think as the adults important in their lives did.  We all do, at least initially.

    I remembered a tale I frequently told pupils in the past.  In my own life, I later understood, when I was young I was unaware of the infinite options and opportunities to think, say, do, and feel, in ways that were uncommon in my family.  I could not imagine what was novel to me.  If questioned I would defend my beliefs; however, unlike these preteens I did not dismiss a request for thoughtfulness.  A want for greater wisdom was instilled in me from the first.  I learned to desire discussions.  Fury in my family seemed a futile emotion.  It brought more wrath and offered little promise for peace.

    However, my relatives did not raise these miniature men.  Perhaps that explains why the pair of youthful McCain/Palin supporters began to rant and rage.  They chided me for the size of my sign.  The littler than full-grown lads laughed as they pointed to a banner firmly planted, permanently into the ground.  Behind them was a monstrous sign, perhaps eight-feet wide and six feet high.  The words McCain Palin stood strident for all passer-bys to see.  On a background, so dark as to appear near black, the white letters screamed support for the Republican ticket.

    The boys shrieked; “I cannot even see your sign.”  “It is so small,” the two shouted.  I did not react.  The language the boys used morphed into a lexicon I will not utter, even when distressed.  After moments when I avoided actual engagement; although I did not put my Obama sign down, I decided to speak again.  “Love and peace,” I proclaimed.  I was quickly told there would be none of that.  A slew of statements not to be repeated spewed from the mouths of babes.  I was stunned, not by the venom but by the similarities and contrast.

    While I waited for the light to turn green, I found myself lost in reveries.

    As a child, also at the age of eleven or possibly twelve, I first began on my path as an activist, an advocate for people, regardless of race, color, creed, or religion.  My civic maturity was intellectually realized through acceptance.  I was taught not merely to tolerate others; I learned to embrace all.  Amongst my lessons, diversity is as significantly wondrous as similarities.  These were our family values.  More importantly, the skill that was honed in my parents’ home was listening.

    My Mom and Dad helped me to understand that if I chose to hear what another believed, I could grow wiser.  Together, communities are greater when the commonweal is the central concern.  Fundamentally, my family believed, all individuals believe in love and goodness.  “All men [and women, children too] are created equal.

    Perhaps that is why, while in Middle School my family participated in a civil rights march.  I was invited to join them.  Years earlier, at the age of five, I became interested in politics.  As my parents engaged in the most animated discussion I had ever witnessed, I learned of elections.  

    I grew aware of the emotional impact an economic issues and the impact these could have on a vote.  Education, the environment, war, and peace all played a part in ballot decisions.  At the kitchen table, as I sat and listened to the lively talk on topics that related to every aspect of life, I realized the power of everyday people.  All Americans who vote shape our society.  I also understood that those to little to cast a ballot had influence.

    Mothers and fathers often jest, “My children learn what I never did.”  Proud papas revel in the knowledge a son or daughter shares.  Modest Mamas marvel when their offspring offer informed opinions.  In my youth, I may not have realized the words I uttered as a student enrolled in school were of interest to my Mom and Dad.  What I saw and felt taught them.  As I talked aloud, my parents learned.  We chatted.  The child was a mentor.  Caregivers were counselors.  Each gained and received a greater education from the other.

    The difference between my experience and what I witnessed at the intersection was in my family, peace was promoted.  A reciprocal reverence was advanced.  A word such as “Muslim,” a person’s religion, was not considered a source for a slight.

    I was not encouraged to slam or damn another being, not one who stood before me, or one who wished to serve the public.  Indeed, behavior than might demean or dismiss another being was sincerely discouraged.

    As a child, I was taught to believe competitive temperaments are counter productive.  Characteristics that could be classified as cutthroat were considered childish, aggressive, and contrary to the traits that might create peace.  Calmness was considered the pinnacle path.  In my family, communication was thought to be the greatest travel, that is, next to thinking.  

    Even in election season, I learned at the knees of Mommy and Daddy; empathy is the best educator.  I wondered.  What had these young men experienced in their homes?  

    Would their mothers and fathers be pleased as they heard their brood proclaim prejudice statements from the pavement, “Barack Obama is a Muslim.”  Might the Moms or Dads of these chaps be indignant at the discordant idea of “Country First?”  Would they rather the children cry in concord, “We, the people, are the change we can believe in.”  Likely not.  Progeny are the products of parents.  

    If we teach the children to chastise, they will.  Offspring trained to offend others do.  Those tutored to act defensively often deliver dubious dictums.  Fear fills the spirits of those who were not treated with abundant respect.  Apprehension is frequently expressed as anger.  

    Concerned communication gives birth to calm and care.  If we edify praise, as well as unity and peace, our offspring will practice kindheartedness.  When mothers and fathers teach attentiveness and acceptance, the children will acquire comparable customs.  Elders who choose to listen and learn from and with their progeny teach little ones to do the same.

    Perchance what divides our country is not political parties, religious practices, color, or creed.  What fractures America is the manner in which we parent our children.

    The Story of a Sign

    The story of a sign.  Historia de una letrero

    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    It is a beautiful day.  On each afternoon, and into the evening millions, billions of us amble about.  Worldwide, we are busy people.  Even when we are out for a casual stroll we walk, we talk, and yet we see little.  Most of us hear less.  The birds fly above.  Wings flutter and flap.  The sound made is a silence.  It fades delicately into the background.  These little creatures chortle and chatter.  Each sings a sweet song.  Bees, beetles, beasts of all sorts hum as they travel hither and yon.  These beings communicate.  They create communities carefully.  Yet, humans intent on instant and tangible gratification are unaware of what is ethereal.  

    Flowers twist and turn gracefully with the wind.  The gentle breeze whispers to us all.  Each of us is touched tenderly and still not moved.  Trees also commune with other forms of nature.  Limbs bend; they extend towards the sun.  All entities exist as part of one, except perhaps, humans.  Egos separate us from so much.  People frequently unite to what they consider matters of consequence.

    Little persons may be swept away by a moments delight.  However, as they age, they too learn to ignore the beauty that surrounds each of us.  In time,  children become adolescents.  They no longer play and revel in life.  There is too much to do.  School work, homework, and the work that will provide an individual income becomes more important than the birds, the bees, or even you and me.

    As tots, we learn to talk, to walk, to worry, to work, and to war.  We are taught to forget the beauty that surrounds us.  Words become ways to express who we are, what we want, why we believe as we do, and not a means for a greater connection.

    Rarely do people ponder the power of a phrase.  Few of us reflect upon the ways in which others hear what is said.  Countless do not consider how a written communication might be received.  Nor do people imagine how the unintended impression influences an interaction.  

    Humans engage in exchanges, and most feel as though no one listens or understands.  

    Too often people think of self first.  They miss the miracles that surround them, that are within the wind, the words, or the person who sits in front of them.  No matter how gorgeous the morning, afternoon, evening, or the individual, most are blind to the exquisiteness of what is.

    Nonetheless, if we choose to, any of us can take the time to stop, to share, to speak in a manner that evokes an evolution.  We might engage in a way that brings us closer together.  People can be profound, or would be if they only stopped to consider the story of every sign, the meaning of each moment, the essence of all.

    It is a beautiful day.  Might we see it, hear it, feel it, and share it.

    Calm Communicators Unite Us. Cruel Commanders Divide Us


    copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

    Americans are at odds.  As a nation, we are splintered.  The parts do not function as a whole.  Some wish to control and command.  Others prefer to work for the common good.  As we stand, we are a country divided.

    The most recent Internal Revenue Service data, shows one percent of Americans received twenty-one and two-tenths [21.2] percent of all personal income.  In 2005, fifty [50] percent of the people in this nation, those who have long struggled to survive, earned twelve and eight-tenths [12.8] percent of all wages and salaries.  In the United States, dollars earned split the population.  Wealth is not all that separates us.

    Color causes schisms.  Citizens live in regions of the country labeled Red, or Blue.  Brownish immigrants, with or without papers, are relegated to reside in neighborhoods far from the affluent or influential, even when authentic assimilation is meant to be an option.  Frequently Black Americans are housed in communities where opportunities are few.  When persons of various hues intermingle with the massive pinkish population, in the United States, the people of color are alienated.

    Were Americans do physically unite, they would likely remain segregated.  Americans subtly separate themselves from those they loathe, and form the people they love.  Few ever consider what they do to create a rift.  In America, demeanors, the way in which we communicate, divides us.

    In this nation, a large portion of the population is frequently aggressive, abusive, and antagonistic.  Those they encounter, the not obnoxious or toxic ones, accommodate, appease, appear unaffected, or remain anxious when in the company of the people who believe the best way to appear authoritative is to dictate what needs to be done, by whom, when, where, and why.

    At times, the public is able to openly observe and discuss abuse, but usually, only when it is evident in the extreme.  Banner headlines may scream a need to attend to what, for the most part remains hidden.  Neglect, Abuse Seen in 90, 000 Infants.  However, mostly Americans demonstrate their angst in manners identified as normal.  No one speaks of what is standard.  Perchance, the reason is, in the States reactive behaviors, which reveal annoyance, are so common as to be customary.

    Daily, in periodicals we read of what we would wish to think is not traditional, but may be.  The accounts scream to us.  Citizens in this country think it outrageous when they realize.  In Chicago, youth violence is increasingly prevalent.  Twenty-two [22] students were slain in this heartland city so far this year.  Our fellow country men remark, ‘This sort of thing occurs only among ‘those people.’  Surely, the rest of us are sane and serene.  ‘The average American would not strike out in such a manner.’  People say, ‘Weaponry is for outlaws,’ or at least, mechanical arsenals are meant only to combat a political enemy.  Those who reside in the United States never imagine that “they” would use a gun in anger, or lash out when with a friend.  Few consider how frequently they attack those they say they are fond of.

    When words are the weapon of choice, and blood is not spilled, most in this country think no harm is done.  War and wounds are what we see on the battlefields, and mostly abroad.  In this country, life is calm.

    We read of skirmishes elsewhere daily.  Americans witness what occurs in the Persian Gulf.  Iraqi deaths are on the rise regardless of the Americans attempt to Surge and subvert the violence.  Now, that is awful.  Thankfully, this nation is not torn apart by war.

    Few ponder the fact that these excessive examples illustrate and amplify what is apparent in American homes.  People pounce easily and often.  We cruelly criticize and intentionally drive a wedge between unions.  We conquer; and in America, we destroy.

    In this country, enemies are thought to be around every corner.  We publicly rant and rage when we refer to people of another race or religion.  Privately, many are punitive towards those who reside in our homes.  When we look upon those the “commanders” consider beloved, we see differences, and ignore similarities.  He is wrong; I am right.  She is flawed.  “I am perfect.”  Spite is right.  Malice is might.  Vindictiveness is used to undermine viciousness.  In many American homes, tit for tat is the acceptable.

    Those in authority, “Tsk, tsk,” the ones who they would wish to weaken.  Children are infrequently given information about the consequences of their choices.  Calm and complete communication is too often a rarity in our abodes.  Rather than work to create cohesive communities within a household, parents and their progeny dictate, and divide.

    Adults learn their aggressive manners in childhood.  A slight from a toddler’s first teachers cuts to the core.  Terse comments, a tease, or a taunt directed at a teen does not simply slide off the back of one scarred by a lifetime of verbal slashes.  Adults do not deflect digs; some have merely learned how to present the appearance of being unaffected by an oral assault.  In truth, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, and names hurt me more than a physical attack might.”  Many may relate to a common event and decide this is not my business.

    As I was leaving gym one morning, I overheard a mother berating her daughter for refusing to put her face in the water during a toddlers’ swim class.  “You’re such a little coward,” she told the sobbing child — who could not have been more than three years old.  “It’s the same every week.  You always make your daddy and me ashamed.  Sometimes I can’t believe you’re really my daughter.”

    Although my stomach churned with rage on the child’s behalf, I said nothing.  After all, I rationalized, the mother would just tell me to mind my own business.  But I had no doubt that what I had witnessed was in many ways as bad as a brutal beating.  It was emotional child abuse.

    “The bruises don’t show on the outside, so there are no statistics on how many children are victims,” says Dr. Elizabeth Watkins, chief of pediatric primary care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.  “But anyone who works with children knows that the problem is widespread.”

    University of Minnesota psychologist Byron Egeland, who has conducted extensive studies on parenting and early-childhood development, says the effects of emotional child abuse may be at least as devastating as those of physical abuse.  Research conducted by Egeland and his colleagues suggests that emotionally abused children suffer an even greater decline in mental and psychological development as they grow older than do physically abused children.

    This abated state does not necessarily translate to an academic deficit.  Often times, persons who were beaten down emotionally excel in their physical and intellectual endeavors.  Countless adults, who were verbally assaulted as children, believe that the cruelty and callousness they endured, has made them stronger.  People in older bodies show no physical blemishes.  A mature member of society is not noticeably bruised or disfigured.  Most middle-aged grown-ups, those once exposed to such exploitation have learned to hide the scars.  Hurt hearts do not inhibit intellectual growth; nor do the effects of verbal and emotional injuries restrict achievements.  As a tot, a teen, or an individual in his or her golden years, a person harmed by words can thrive and triumph.  The attitude is, “I will show them!”  The thought that provokes our success is, “I will do well.  Then, they will [finally] love me.”

    The truth is mean Mom’s and dismissive Dad’s do love their offspring.  They simply do not know how to show it.  Too often, we do as was done to us.  As adults, we become the people our parents were.  While we may have abhorred mother or father’s behavior, it is what we know.  We grow to be as those who taught us were.

    At birth, we learn of what we despise most.  In our parents dwelling, as tots, we become acquainted with insults, invectives, and insolence.  The invisible barbs are experienced as a barrage of bullets; each pierces the flesh.  Mothers mock us.  Fathers jeer.  Brothers and sisters, bully.  In our earliest years, we begin to think of when and how we can leave the company of those who say they treasure us.  In time, as children we decide the best defense is a good offense.  Hence, we become equally odious, angry, and ambitious.  Often adults, who were verbally abused as children, when they speak of their parents, state, “They did the best they could.”  Indeed, perfectionist parents do what they believe is best, and they expect their progeny to do better.

    In ambitious middle-class families, one of the most common forms of emotional abuse is the denigration of any achievement that falls short of perfection, such as when a child is punished for bringing home a B instead of an A. Jeree Pawl, director of the Infant-Parent Program at San Francisco General Hospital, observes that “perfectionist” parents may display irrational expectations.

    After a time, Mom and Dad no longer need to express what they expect; children know what is necessary.  In fact, a young person will demand more of him or herself than either parent ever did.  In our youth, we become self-critical.  Our parents likely did not disparage us as well as we demean ourselves.  Each day, we improve.  We can deliver venom more vigorously than Mom or Dad ever did.  Persons, who were the victims of verbal mistreatment in their youth, inflict the same sarcastic and sardonic on them selves as they age.

    The use of hurtful declarations becomes a habit.  Spoken stabs pull a person down.  Those not stated aloud do us in with greater force.  The voice within is perhaps more furious than the one separate from self.  Our self-assessments are as a cancerous virus.  Merciless messages kill.  Yet, no one notices the cause or effects of the illness.  Too many Americans share the symptoms; hence, the pain is standard.

    Parental verbal abuse may wound children’s psyches so deeply that the effects remain apparent in young adulthood.  Such abuse may wreak psychological havoc greater than that caused by physical abuse.

    With an M.B.A. degree under her belt, 24-year-old “Jaime” (not her real name) should have glowing job prospects in Chicago.  But she harbors memories that erode her self-confidence and make her bristle with anger-memories of her father shouting at her, during drunken rages, that she was ugly and of little value.

    Indeed, verbal abuse during childhood can scar people deeply, a new study suggests.  It was headed by Martin Teicher, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program at McLean Hospital, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School.  Results were published in the June American Journal of Psychiatry.

    Although the injurious effects of child physical and sexual abuse have been the subject of considerable inquiry, not much attention has been paid to the possibly noxious effects of verbal abuse on children.

    People attend to what they see.  The battered hearts, the wounded souls are not visible to the eye; although the effects of these are apparent if we wish to see them.  Researchers studied and discovered what lies just beneath the surface.

    People who were verbally abused had 1.6 times as many symptoms of depression and anxiety as those who had not been verbally abused and were twice as likely to have suffered a mood or anxiety disorder over their lifetime, according to psychology Professor Natalie Sachs-Ericsson, the study’s lead author.

    “We must try to educate parents about the long-term effects of verbal abuse on their children,” Sachs-Ericsson said.  “The old saying about sticks and stones was wrong.  Names will forever hurt you.”

    Moms and Dads wield words as weapons daily.  An innocent and sweet child may be saddened by what is said to them.  Frequently, a lad or a lass, who has come to expect the worse is fretful, frightened, or apprehensive when near those who vocally attack.  After a time, a child turned teen, may appear angry, as an adult resigned, acquiescent when with Mom or Dad.  Still, the pain seeps out.  It spills onto all the injured individual encounters.

    The cycle starts subtly.  It is all so subterranean.  How often is a child told, “You need to take responsibility”?  Yet, how frequently does neither guardian seems to accept that they play a part in what occurred in their own lives.  After a night on the town, too much food, and an abundance of alcoholic beverages, Dad may bellow, “Stay out of my way today if you know what’s good for you.”  Then, as if to inform his brood, father would offer, “I’m in a bad mood.”  Daddy does not wish to be liable for his own limitations.  Thus, if he was under duress, or hassled, surely, someone else must be to blame.

    It is a “me against the world” mentality.  Those who command and seek control, the power they did not feel they had in their youth, see themselves as separate from the others.  Hence, the great divide.

    Mom may be no different from Dad.  This sweet, soft-spoken woman, a mother committed to her children often commented, “My life would have been perfect if it were not for you.”  She would then say, “Get out of my sight; you are a bad boy, a hateful, ungrateful girl.”  Then, moments later, Mommy would say how much she loved you, or I.  Life and love, as a child, and later as an adult can be caustic, chaotic, and troublesome, even if we emerge confidently.  Either parent can do the damage.  Both can build the barriers that teach one of the brood to be boldly brazen.

    Weeks ago, Americans watched an esteemed achiever, a Presidential aspirant, vent wrathful words.  The statements  made echoed in every American household.  On television and radio airwaves we heard, “Shame on you. “It is time you (act in a manner) consistent with your messages in public.  That is what I expect from you.  (L)et’s have a debate about your tactics and your behavior  . . .”  Only days prior, we, as a nation, were moved by the magnanimous words, “(Y)ou know, no matter what happens in this contest — and I am honored, I am honored to be here with [the same person who was slammed two days later.] I am absolutely honored.”  Hours before the homage was delivered in a face-to-face encounter, the self-proclaimed “fighter” raged, she was ready. The person she humiliated after offering a sincere homage was not.  Then, in a fit of anger, this eloquent and accomplished adult exclaimed to her audience, “Let’s get real.”

    On an occasion or two, the New York Senator states if she and her adversary worked as one, all dreams would come true.  Quickly, Hillary Rodham Clinton reminds us that the same individual who she thinks praiseworthy is incompetent.  He cannot command; nor is he qualified.  The waling wounded Clinton claims the man who might steal her win is but a “child.”  She demeans his experience while she exaggerates her own.  In a breath, the scared child, now a grown Senator, cries out.  The former First Lady, who continues to carry the weight of a world built on pain within her, tells us the man who angers her is eloquent, admirable, and yet, inadequate.

    One day this wise woman is passive or polite; then in the next moment she is aggressive and antagonistic. As Hillary Clinton speaks of  Uniting the States,  creating a cohesive Democratic Party, she works to divide these entities.  She loves her country, her challenger, and her community; yet . . .

    The push-pull of these love-hate relationships may remind us of what too many of us as children and adults experience in our family homes.  In the “United” States, division, derision, declarations that divide a union are natural.  Most accept the conventions that have been familiar throughout their lives.  Few are disturbed by the divisiveness a Presidential candidate puts forth.  Perchance, the American people relate.  Might we consider the climate that was the candidate’s childhood, her history, and the truth that fashioned her family?

    The couple fought. In 1926, Dorothy’s father filed for divorce, claiming that his wife had hit him in the face and scratched him on three separate occasions, according to Cook County records.  In a March 1927 court hearing, Della Howell’s own sister accused her of abusing her husband and abandoning her two daughters.

    “She had a violent temper and flew at him in a rage, and would fight him,” testified the sister, Frances Czeslawski.

    Della Howell did not show up to contest the divorce — she could not be found by subpoena servers.  Dorothy’s father was given custody.  But, either unwilling or unable to take care of his daughters, he put them on the train to California, where his parents, Edwin Howell Sr. and Emma Howell, had moved a few years previously. . . .

    The grandparents were ill-prepared to raise Dorothy and her sister, Isabelle.

    Edwin Howell Sr. had emigrated from Wales. He worked as a machinist in an auto plant and as a laborer for the Alhambra street department, according to Alhambra city directories from the time. He mostly left the girls’ care to his wife.

    Emma Howell was a strict woman who wore black Victorian dresses and discouraged visitors and parties.  Once, discovering that Dorothy had gone trick-or-treating on Halloween, she ordered her confined to her room for a year except for school.

    “Her grandmother was a severe and arbitrary disciplinarian who berated her constantly, and her grandfather all but ignored her,” Clinton wrote. . .

    “Once I asked my mother why she went back to Chicago,” Clinton wrote in “Living History.” The answer? “‘I’d hoped so hard that my mother would love me that I had to take the chance and find out,’ she told me. ‘When she didn’t, I had nowhere else to go.’

    Too many of us can recall a time when we wanted to be appreciated, admired, accepted by those who brought us into the world, or taught us to be the best we could be.  Even when those we care for harm us, we still crave their adoration.  A child who feels less than cherished will try harder.  Humans will do whatever they believe they must do in hopes that someday, they will be treasured by their first teachers, the people they call family.

    Hillary was the best student among her siblings, the one who took her parents’ lessons most seriously. . .

    Hugh Rodham, unlike many other fathers of his era, raised his daughter to be ambitious.  When she brought home straight A’s, Rodham would say, “Well, Hillary, that must be an easy school you go to,” she [Presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton] wrote. . .

    Hugh Rodham took thrift to even greater heights than many survivors of the Depression. If Hillary, Hugh Jr., or Tony left the cap off the toothpaste, he would toss it out the window and send the child to search for it.  An allowance was out of the question. “I feed you, don’t I?” she remembers him saying.

    Clinton speaks of her father admiringly, but  . . . no one disputes his gruffness. “He was character building, like our winters in Chicago,” Ebeling, Clinton’s best friend, said. . . .

    He was “highly opinionated, to put it mildly,” [Hillary] Clinton wrote. “We all accommodated his pronouncements . . .

    Hilary is as many warriors in society are.  She expects the electorate to tolerate her brusque, sometimes demeaning, statements, just as she accepted much of what her father said.  If the people wish to argue with the aspirant, as occasionally she did with her dear Dad, Clinton thinks that is fine.  After all, she is a fighter.  She knows how to win.  Just as Hugh Rodham did when he felt his children were uncontrollable, the dictatorial, decidedly aggressive decider known as Dad escalated the argument.  “You are with me or against me” is a common refrain among those who command cruelly.

    Many progeny adapt to parents who can be punitive.  After a time, offspring learn, the boundaries that divide them are best when they remain as invisible, just as the wounds on the heart are.  Children convince themselves, they are strong.  They are in control.  As long as they go along to get along all will be well, and it will be, until the next emotional upheaval.  Even then, those who scream and demean will be fine, for what they experience is familiar.

    I offer a personal anecdote, one that helped me to understand the divide that exists among us in America.  There are the “fighters” well-trained to battle, and the peacemakers, those who talk in tones that are more tranquil.

    I realized this only in recent years.  A time ago, after I had lived on this glorious green Earth for more than three decades I thought I understood people.  I experienced much in my lifetime.  As a child, I settled in the suburbs, the city, and the country. In my earliest years may family had all the fineries. We were exceptionally wealthy. Then, there was the divorce.  My Mommy, new Daddy a sister, and I were extremely poor when I was in Elementary School.  Eventually we evolved into Middle Class.  I felt as though we were average.

    At seventeen years of age, I declared my independence. I left home, lived on my own, and struggled to earn enough money to survive. I inhabited neighborhoods not thought to be safe.  My knowledge of life and it’s various styles, I believed was expansive.

    Then, it occurred. I met a man.  Immediately, I knew I loved him.  I had never been easily impressed.  Romantic relationships were not part of my repertoire.  This person, I perceived as beyond special.  I admired him, and I intensely appreciated him.  This gentleman was brilliant.  He was very successful.  He smiled ever so warmly.  Until . . .  suddenly, he yelled.  The wrath was intended for me.  As Gary excitedly expressed his disgust, his face was flush.  His eyes and veins were bulging.  This cherished chap was agitated, accusatory, and exceptionally anxious.  To this day, I know not why.  I have asked.  Yet, an explanation was not forthcoming.

    As Gary ranted and raged, I stood frozen, as a deer in headlights.  I was stunned.  In my whole life, no one had ever yelled at me, or so I thought, previous to that day.  There was one other occasion.

    That narrative aside, as Gary and I stood face to face, as he screamed and shrieked, he articulated the assertion, “You are having a tantrum.”  I marveled. I am a calm person.  As a child, I was just as serene.  In my entire life, I did not recall being explosive.  As I observed Gary and listened to his words, I was uncertain which aspect of this encounter was more amazing to me, his conduct, or his contention.  After, the damn or dam broke, he seemed free of his agitation.  I was anxious, although still silent.  I knew not what to say or do.  What had I witnessed?  What did it mean?  How did I feel about it?

    In time, I did learn as Hillary Clinton, and others whose hearts are hurt by words, do.  I could choose to tolerate the brusque and debasing language. I could choose to appease, to please, or to patronize.  However, I also understood no matter what I decided to do, there would be consequences.  There would always be a chasm between Gary and I.  I would never fully feel comfortable, for I did not know what might bring on another brutal belch of bitterness.

    I walked on eggshells, and he, with all his hollering, hoped to secure the impression that he walked on water.  I came to discover that Gary had been challenged all his life.  His parents were the purveyors of agenda after agenda.  As a child he had felt as he now teaches others to feel, as though he was and is less than.  Gary was told too often, he was not good enough, smart enough; he was wrong.  If Gary received an excellent evaluation in class, he too was meet with the remark similar to the ones the New York Senator heard in her youth.   “Well, that subject is just too simple.”  “An “A” grade is not good enough.”

    Dissect a heart.  Dismember a sweet spirit.  It is the American way, divide and conquer.  In a competitive society, where cruelty is common, most everyone will suffer, so that the few spoiled souls can feel, even if only for a moment, that they have succeeded.  Sadly, their triumph is our demise.

    Gary, Hillary, and too many we encounter have become so familiar with belligerent behaviors they no longer think there are other ways to work with people.

    I was raised in a family where no one yells.  To say I am jarred by loud aggressive rants is to understate what I feel.  For a time, I team-taught with an instructor deemed superior.  This person won District-wide awards.  I understood why when I assessed the curriculum this teacher originated.  Yet, this individual chastised students vociferously and with ample abandon.  When in a rage, this educator’s voice traveled throughout the building.  I literally jumped in fright on more than one occasion.

    Even without the volume, this teacher’s words could cut like a knife.  When the venom was directed at me, I froze.  I am extremely sensitive to the lexis.  The phrases this instructor used were not part of my reality.  Our philosophies on life were disparate.  Yet, I truly enjoyed this individual when the conversation was amiable.  When jovial, the professor was a delight.  Indeed, this person often was happy and genuinely fun.

    When a scream was heard through the walls, students and I would react.  Some smiled.  A few laughed nervously.  Others and I were startled.  We cringed.  When the world was again calm, quietly, throughout the room, discussions emerged.  The demeanor of this academic was the topic.  Talk of the teacher was approached tenderly.  As I listened, I learned.  If a person grows up in a home where one particular approach to life is normal, they learn to accept and appreciate that manner of expression.  People who were taught to expect verbal lashings, as Hillary Clinton noted, learn to accommodate or accept.

    If cruel criticisms were common in a home; howls were considered to be a sign, someone cares, painful as that might be. Those never exposed to love that did not hurt could not imagine the possibility.  Tis a sad state in this union, when those we treasure most are the ones we whip to a pulp with words.  A country divided cannot stand.

    Perchance it is time to truly discuss what divides America. Dollars and legal documents are not divisive.  Paper does not have the power to pull us apart.  Race cannot physically separate us.  In nature, every hue is a significant part of the whole.  Religion does not cause a rift between neighbors.  A philosophy can only teach us.  Principles do not reach into our souls and cause us to slice and dice.  It is we who control the chaos that drives a wedge between our brethren and we.

    Might Americans come together at home and on every avenue?  From Wall Street to Main Street let us speak kindly to each other.  Let us teach the children well.  

    Perhaps, it is time to tell those you share a life with that you revere them without reservations.  If we choose to use words that consistently show we care for those we love, perhaps, peace will have a chance.  If our words were to mirror our stated beliefs, possibly, money would have no power, color could do no harm, and religious principles would be evident in our every expression.  Please, imagine and work to give birth to what for too long was thought impossible.  Let us live in an America, united in more than name only.

    Sources, Scars, Screams in a divided society . . .

    Communication; Alone in a Crowd

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    The world is crowded.  Six billion, six hundred twenty seven million, three hundred and sixty six thousand, three hundred and fifty people populate this planet, or did a short time ago.  In this moment, there are more humans than there were seconds ago.  The number of inhabitants increases exponentially each day.  Everywhere we look, there is another person being born.  Yet, at least in America, people feel more isolated than they did in the past.

    Americans are more connected.  Cyberspace calls us and draws us in.  Electronic communiqués flood our online mailboxes.  Cell telephones ring.  It seems everyone has one and uses it to speak with someone, even when they are with another individual.  Conversation is ubiquitous.  However, when in a crowd, Americans feel more socially isolated.

    A horde of people feels hollow; a throng leaves us empty.  Conversations abound.  Yet, few communicate.

    Wherever we go we see smiles, hear laughter; and listen.  Frequently, we initiate or participate.  With all the chitter and chatter, certainly life must be a party.  Yet, while engaged in the festivities many feel so very alone.  People talk incessantly.  Individuals prattle.  Persons natter.  Discussions abound; yet, something is missing.  Small talk does not soothe the soul; it only fills the air. 

    Folks imply, infer, interpret, insinuate, and insult.  Humans coo and coddle.  A few chuckle and chat.  Still they do not dare speak of what concerns them.  True conversation can be dangerous, or at least difficult. 

    How often have we felt alone in a crowd even when we appear engaged?  As children, we “played” with our peers; yet, often we marveled at what seem to entertain them.  We went along to get along.  At a certain age, we were enrolled school.  Placed in a classroom with throngs of students we were one among many.  There were expectations that may not have seemed reasonable to us.  Yet, we learned it is best to remain silent and pretend to absorb the information.  Feeling alone, lost, confused, and perhaps in disagreement was better than being singled out and punished for “bad” behavior. 

    Now, in our personal and professional lives, we do as we learned best when we were little; we say little or nothing.  A parent may fear repercussions if they approach their child’s teacher with concerns.  A Mom or Dad may feel so forlorn.  Other youngsters understand the assignment, and their son is lost.  Dad devotes his evenings to his daughter.  He tutors her in Math.  He wonders, why she does not receive adequate instruction in school.  Mothers and fathers may wait to speak.  They do as they did when younger; parents hold back.  They do not say what is on their mind. 

    When frustrated beyond belief Mom or Pop may call the school and shout, “Why is my child singled out?”  The shrill approach to a perceived problem only exasperates a situation.

    Old, young, or contemplating the circumstance of those close to us, often we believe our situation is different.  People ponder if they speak, they will be labeled defiant.  Some satisfied with the description heatedly head into battle after battle.  Individuals take their convictions and mannerisms with them wherever they go.

    Professional mentors muse.  The goals outlined in the mandated curriculum conflict with the instructor’s sense of quality education.  Concern for the physical realities of survival may influence this academic. He may decide to do as he is told.  Paychecks are often a priority when making a decision.  Another educator might march into a superior’s office in a huff.  Crossly, she will stake out her claim.  While the approaches differ, neither communicates their message well.  It is difficult to hear what is not said.  When faced with verbal flames, people struggle to do more than defend themselves.

    An Administrator annoyed with Board dictums, does as she is told.  In industry, we observe people are well trained.  They too had years of schooling.  Society teaches us; only those in authority can voice their opinions.  Subordinates must suffer.  Common workers do not have the power to be players.  Some staffers do steam and scream; they express great angst.  However, they usually discover when they holler they loose credibility.  A lesson rarely taught in schools or at home is true communication only occurs when calm.

    No matter the vocation, indoctrination is sadly, similar.  Physicians and mechanics alike learn to diagnose; yet, not discuss.  Accountants calculate; however, careful conversation may not be in the equations.  Technicians understand how to tinker; they may not have acquired the skill necessary to talk and listen.  Chief Executive Officers may have assets; they can secure profits.  Nonetheless, many have not earned a degree in deep dialogue.

    In every profession and predicament, there are presumed elites.  They are knowledgeable in their area of expertise.  The mediocre fill room after room.  The mundane are abundant.  Status means nothing when we evaluate communication skills.  Nonetheless, the hierarchy affects what happens when people engage.

    Humans in every aspect of life do great harm to themselves and others when they do not express themselves for fear of their station.  When individuals yelp rather than ask for the help they actually want or need, much is lost.  Trust and tranquility are necessary if we are to truly communicate.

    When we remain silent, we appear to be in agreement with authorities, contemporaries, colleagues, and cohorts.  If we do not verbalize who we are, what we need, or our beliefs, we experience a greater sense of solitary confinement.  We may appear to be part of a team.  In truth, we further the distance between self and others.  Shouts do not secure closeness; nor do these facilitate communication and empathy.  Our reluctance to communicate or boisterous behavior causes a greater divide.

    Please ponder what occurs in your office, at a party, in professional careers and in personal relationships.  We can be physically connected and emotionally separate.  We converse and yet, we do not communicate.

    In a classroom, in a court house, a cafeteria, when on a conference-call, in neighborhood communities, and even at home people debase, condescend, patronize, roll their eyes when they think no one will notice, or show sycophantic respect.  They, we, humans are anything but authentic when we speak with others.  Then we wonder; why might we be less than effective communicators?

    When with a loved one, we might relax.  We feel we can be totally true to ourselves.  Thus, if we feel a need to express ourselves in a difficult situation, we may shout, scream, stomp, slam doors, and tell the other to “Shut up,” common vernacular for “Please, close your mouth.”

    Those calmer in nature, engage in deep and logical discussions.  We use “laser logic” to burn a hole in the heart, mind, and soul of a mate.  Words may not draw blood; nonetheless, the body is left limp, lame on the floor.  It is not a pretty site.

    Whether we are physically or verbally aggressive, intellectually assertive, or even silent in difficult times, ultimately we will realize communication is not easy.

    Most people realize that the lack of effective communication with others can lead to serious problems in a person’s life: 44% of Americans believe that it “very frequently” causes a marriage or a relationship to end, fewer (38%) say that money problems “very frequently” get in the way of a relationship, some name interference of relatives or in-laws (14%), others blame sexual problems (12%), previous relationships (9%), and children (7%).

    When asked to choose the most frequent cause among those they listed as “very frequent causes,” only two stand out: a majority (53%) say a lack of effective communication between partners is the most frequent cause, while fewer than three in ten (29%) say money problems are the most frequent cause.  All other causes are ranked first by fewer than one in ten people.

    Partnership has an emotional appeal.  Emotions can cause and have an effect on the quality of a conversation.  This is evident when we search the statistics.  It is interesting to note, people may be more cautious in their careers than they are at home.  Our need to survive, to provide food, shelter, and clothing can come between our mouth and our brain.  Physically, humans may be more dependent on dollars, than they are on their mate.

    A majority of Americans are satisfied with the comfort level of communication in the workplace, though they feel far more at ease talking to their coworkers than their boss.  Almost two-thirds of people who work are very comfortable communicating with their coworkers (69%) while only 3% feel uncomfortable.  Fewer people (no surprises here) feel very comfortable communicating with their boss (57%).  People feel they are less effective than comfortable communicating at work: more than half think they are “very effective” communicating with their colleagues (58%), and somewhat fewer (51%) feel very effective communicating with their supervisor.

    Older, more experienced people consider themselves more effective communicators than younger people who are just starting their careers and establishing their relationships in the workplace: half of those aged 45-54 (51%) consider themselves to be “very effective” in their communication with the boss, versus four in ten 18 to 24 year olds (39%).  Clearly, people become more comfortable and effective dealing with the boss as they get more experience.

    At times, age is not the determinant.  Experience does not make a difference.  Status counts more than seniority or knowledge.  Rank is frequently the reward of those considered more capable.  Confidence is often interpreted as competence.  Commonly, we calculate the worth of another by how well they communicate.  If a man or woman greets a crowd with a haughty hail, often they are thought to be strong.  A shy and quiet person, someone who is reserved and perhaps reflective may be viewed as less able.

    In the workplace, silence is a common solution when confronted with what might seem a crisis.  How often have any of us sat with a supervisor and said nothing substantial when asked for our opinion.  When on conference calls, or in a meeting with colleagues, we might notice the complaints we hear in the hallway when chatting one-on-one are never discussed.  Certified consultations are void of communication.  People, when placed in a professional situation do not exchange ideas freely, even when given the opportunity.

    Yes, associates chatter; they talk.  Statements are made.  Yet, ultimately, workers are complacent.  Everyone is eager to please the person in charge.  Silence may secure a professional paid position.  However, the lack of discussion may be perceived in ways the worker does not consider.  In the office,  at home, on the streets, silence is not always golden.

    10 Things to Know About Silence in Communication 
    By Susan Dunn?
    July 28, 2005

    One of the most important parts of any conversation is the silence.  Silence can serve many functions in a conversation and how you manage it, determines your level of sophistication.  Here are some points to keep in mind about silence in communication.

    1.  Allowing silence in a conversation puts pressure on the other person.  It’s conventional in the US not to allow any sort of extended silence in a conversation.  Therefore, to allow one puts pressure on the other person to “fill air time.”  Some interviewers, for instance, use this technique to see what will happen.  Often the person will “spill” – saying exactly the thing they didn’t want to say. 

    2.  Silence can indicate hostility.  Withdrawing, “stonewalling,” and pouting in silence are ways some people handle anger.  Such a silence can be pulsating with bad feelings, and elicit anger on the part of the other person.

    3.  Silence can indicate disagreement. 

    While it’s almost never an indication of indifference, silence can indicate that the other person is having negative emotions.  When we experience anger, fear, or embarrassment, our thinking brain shuts down.  We sit there fuming, unable to speak; enraged and unable to find words; afraid and scared speechless.  Some people are “flooded” with these emotions, and unable to respond.

    4.  Silence can indicate profoundness, such as awe or horror.  Sometimes when we’re listening to someone else, we hear something that leaves us speechless because it really goes beyond words.  Listening to someone talk about a dreadful trauma they’ve endured, or a beautiful, almost-sacred interaction with another human being, or a description of an awesome natural event such as a sunset or a volcano eruption are examples.  Somehow, when we listen to such things, the ordinary “Oh,” “Wow,” and “That’s awesome” don’t seem enough, and so we fall silent. 

    5.  Silence can indicate respect.  In some cultures more than others, silence indicates respect.  A young person may be expected to approach an older person or a person in authority and remain silent until recognized, acknowledged, and spoken to. 

    6.  Silence can indicate contemplation.  The more introverted your communication partner, the more likely they will think before they speak.  Extraverts discover what they’re thinking and how they feel by talking.  Introverts figure it all out inside their own head and heart before giving voice to it. 

    7.  Silence can be intentional rudeness.  Because of the nature of normal conversation in the US, allowing an extended silence can be perceived as rudeness.  It can also be meant that way.  Refusing to reply to the other person is a way of ignoring them. 

    8.  Silence can be the creation of a listening space.  When you are profoundly listening to someone, you create an open space for them to talk into that’s almost palpable.  Good listeners know how to do this, and it can be learned.  It’s an “openness” that you transmit through nonverbal means. 

    9.  Silence can be an indication of empathy.  When we’re really tuning in to how the other person feels, we’re listening more to the tone of their voice, cadence and speed rather than the actual words, so reply with words may not be the most appropriate response.  Sometimes sounds are more attuned  . . . a murmur, a sigh, sucking in the breath in shock, soothing sounds, clucking (tsk tsk), or shaking the head and going uh, uh, uh. 

    10.  How you manage silence in conversation is an important part of emotional intelligence.  Excellent communicators can allow silence when it’s effective or called for; can avoid being pressured into “spilling” when silence is used manipulatively; offer silence as a gift or sign of respect; interpret the silence of others appropriately; understand how other cultures use silence; mindfully regulate the use of silence; and are comfortable with silence and understand its many uses.

    When we do not speak; are we the diligent student, the deterred parent, the proper professor, or the distracted, protracted fuse about to bust into flames.  Might we be the bewildered Board member, the embattled employee, the disgruntled laborer looking for a way to distinguish ourselves, even if it means we must destroy our co-workers and perhaps ourselves?  An observer cannot be certain.

    The sounds of silence are significant.  They can confuse those that hear nothing.  We may intend to communicate we care, and they may interpret the lack of words as contemptuousness.  What we do not say speaks volumes, just as gestures do.  Does a pat on the bottom mean “Well done,” or does such a stroke signify, “I like your body.”  We can never be certain what another person intends with or without words.  Yet, ninety percent of what we communicate is said without oral language.

    Non-verbal communication is a system consisting of a range of features often used together to aid expression . . . The main components of the system are:

  • Kinesics (body language) Body motions such as shrugs, foot tapping, drumming fingers, eye movements such as winking, facial expressions, and gestures
  • Proxemics (proximity) Use of space to signal privacy or attraction
  • Haptics Touch
  • Oculesics Eye contact
  • Chronemics Use of time, waiting, pausing
  • Olfactics Smell
  • Vocalics Tone of voice, timbre, volume, speed
  • Sound symbols Grunting, mmm, er, ah, uh-huh, mumbling
  • Silence Pausing, waiting, secrecy
  • Posture Position of the body, stance
  • Adornment Clothing, jewellery, hairstyle
  • Locomotion Walking, running, staggering, limping

    Of the above, body language (particularly facial expressions and gestures), eye contact, proximity, and posture are probably those which learners most need to be aware of in terms of conveying meaning, avoiding misunderstandings and fitting in with the target culture.

    In terms of skills development, non-verbal clues should not be underestimated when developing both the listening and speaking skills.  Like grammatical structures, non-verbal communication has form, function and meaning, all of which may vary from language to language.

  • What does not differ, no matter the verbal or nonverbal language, is the perceived quality of the interaction.  When two people come together, even if they do not speak the same dialect, or hold positions outwardly considered equal, they have a sense of whether the interchange is effective and meaningful. 

    A student can work with a teacher as a colleague.  A mentor can learn from those that actively acquire knowledge.  A candid parent can approach a child with authentic empathy.  What mother or father was not once young?  Educators, Moms, and Dads can discuss their needs and deeds without defensiveness. 

    A Physician can seek the wisdom of their patient.  Indeed, only an individual can know what occurs within his or her body and how they feel.  A corporate President can engage a subordinate with authentic interest.  After all, if anyone understands how a company works, it is the peon, the secretary, and the janitor with the keys to every door.  Theses employees have been everywhere within the workplace.  Staffers know where the skeletons are hidden, what needs attention, and what functions well.

    If each person in every profession or circumstance cares to communicate, attempts to approach the other with empathy, and a desire to understand, any exchange can be fruitful and fulfilling.  Again, a conversation is more complex than oral statements. 

    We may be able to locate an interpreter if the spoken word is unfamiliar.  Nevertheless, if our message is not sent with an open heart and mind it will not be received well.  Advice from a master communicator and successful businessman may assist us if we are willing to look beyond the superficial. 

    Former General Electric Chief Executive Office, Jack Welch understands that communication is not a technical process.  Task analysis, and implementation of supposed “tried and true” techniques, will not create a great communicator or a leader.  Words will not woo a client or the person that you wish to court.

    Titles don’t matter . . . Passion, chemistry, and idea-flow from any level, at any place are what matters.

    Welch also says that passion is a must for any CEO or leader [or regular person that wishes to be an effective raconteur.]  “If there is one characteristic that all leaders [happy fulfilled persons] share, it’s that they care more than anyone else.  No detail is too small to sweat or too large to dream.”  . . .  Passion comes in all shapes and sizes and takes many different forms.  Ultimately, passion can come from only one place: “From deep inside,” as Welch put it.

      . . .  Passionate leaders [persons] get people to look inside themselves and give more, create more, and risk more.

    When asked of communication Jack Welsh muses, whenever he had an idea or message he could “never say it enough.”  Whether it be in the workplace, within the home, a community, or in the world at-large Jack Welch understands what we all might ponder.  People, more accurately, passion makes the difference.  Characterizations and classifications do not move mountains, make an industry, allow for intimacy, or inspire.  Indeed these designations may threaten us.  Welch, an accomplished entrepreneur, and former Chairman reminds us, an authoritarian approach to leadership or in language may deter supposed subordinates.

    My experience is that the foundations of leadership [effectiveness] begin in childhood and are reinforced through a series of experiences that build self-confidence.  There’s a fine line between arrogance and self-confidence.  Arrogance can be a killer.  The difference between self-confidence and arrogance is the courage to be open – to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source.  Even with all the self-confidence in the world, the “essence” of leadership comes from inside . . . by maintaining integrity.  Establishing it and never wavering from it supported everything I did throughout good and bad times. 

    People may not have agreed with me on every issue – and I may not have always been right – but they always knew they were getting it straight and honest.  I never had two agendas.  There was only one way – the straight way . . .

    For me, intensity covers a lot of sins . . . When passion is combined with self-confidence, and integrity, it’s a winning combination no matter what you do or where you work.

    Welch understands and acts on ideas that I too grasp.  Authenticity matters!  What is not stated sincerely, with care cannot, and will not, be understood or acted upon.  What we say is not as important as how we say it.  We cannot state our desires or needs once and expect to be heard or understood.  We must reiterate, repeat, dare to be redundant, and then review the details again and again.  However, enthusiasm alone and repletion alone are not enough.  If we are to be effective in our communication, we must be approachable.

    Your nonverbal communication talks before you do.  Only seven percent of interpersonal communication is transmitted verbally-the remaining ninety-three percent speaks for itself. 

    And, because nonverbal communication is learned and practiced on an unconscious level, you won’t be aware that you silently scream, “Please don’t talk to me!” 

    When you enter a room full of [teachers, students, parents] employees, clients, or friends each of them intuitively asks one crucial question: are you approachable?  If the answer is yes, the conversations in which you engage will be initiated with ease and comfort.  You make new friends.  You create new contacts.  And you will not have to suffer through another meeting clamped to the snack table.  However, if the answer is no, there won’t be any conversations!  As a result, you miss opportunities to create connections and meet valuable people.

    If child, adult, professional, peon, or we are to achieve, we must conceive, and then believe that we have the power to make a difference.  Perhaps that is the greatest problem, the paradigm that hinders healthy communication.  Deep down, we do not accept as true that we can be, and do as we desire.  Marianne Williamson wrote of what might be the greatest barrier to communication, our fear. 

    Our deepest fear

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

    We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”  Actually, who are you not to be?

    You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

    We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

    I invite you dear reader to be as you fear.  Express what you think.  Share what you feel within.  Do so delicately, and repeatedly.  Dear readers consider the words of a Spanish Philosopher and Writer.

    “Only he who attempts the absurd is capable of achieving the impossible.”
    ~ Miguel de Unamuno [Spanish Philosopher and Writer]

    Trust in the impossible.  Have faith in you.  Be absurd.  You may discover you are not as alone.  Everyone in the crowd is as you are.  They too only wonder how they might best communicate.

    Sounds, Silence, Communication Barriers . . .

  • Nation’s Alienation Index Up Significantly as More Feel Powerless and Isolated.  The Harris Poll® #89. December 8, 2005
  • Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says, The Number of People Who Say They Have No One to Confide In Has Risen, By Shankar Vedantam.  Washington Post.  Friday, June 23, 2006; Page A03
  • pdf Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says, The Number of People Who Say They Have No One to Confide In Has Risen, By Shankar Vedantam.  Washington Post.  Friday, June 23, 2006; Page A03
  • Q & A With Jack Welch. Jack from the Gut.
  • Make the Connection: Improve your Communication At Work and Home, By Steve Adubato
  • Our deepest fear By Marianne Williamson
  • 10 Things to Know About Silence in Communication, By Susan Dunn.  July 28, 2005
  • Why Aren’t You Talking to Me?  By Scott Ginsberg.  The Effective Admin.
  • Blog Talk Radio Brings Maryscott O’Connor to You

    copyright © 2007 Maryscott O’Connor

    Ready or not, here it comes: (And a pre-emptive apology: Forgive me, please… For purposes of this being an Announcement and all, I may slip into referring to myself in third person… at least it ain’t the Royal We, ‘kay?)

    Next Monday, October 22, at 1pm Pacific, 4pm Eastern, Maryscott O’Connor / MSOC (EmSock to friends and enemies alike) intends to make her maiden foray into that area between “alternative media” and “traditional media” — that being the Internet-based “Blog Talk Radio.”

    The designated sobriquet for said radio talk show is, of course, the only possible identification one could choose: My Left Wing Talk Radio.

    This is the description of the show as it appears on My Left Wing Talk Radio’s BlogTalkRadio Page:

    Maryscott O’Connor hosts a show to discuss the godawful mess of a world in which we’re living — and what, if anything, we can do about it. And she’ll probably end up talking about blogging — a lot.

    Call-in listeners and live bloggers at are essential.

    This show is designed to be Interactive; MSOC will respond to livebloggers and callers alike; so Join the Party, people.

    I’ve got a pretty solid plan for the format, a full slate of topics and an outline — not a text or script, per se, but something like what some comedians use when they’re working with new material — you know?

    Anyway . . . I am actually pretty damned hyped up about this. For some unknowable (to me, anyway) reason, I have this sort of vibrating, persistent buzz that’s not really physical or mental… hard to describe this . . . anyway . . . I just have this feeling that I am going to be kind of good at this.

    Or not. Who knows? May fall flat on my face.  I’ve scheduled it for half an hour. They give you the option of 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes.  I thought 15 was just silly for a talk radio show– 15 minutes is better suited to monologuists, I think. But 45 and 60? For a novice like me, the notion of three quarters of an hour, let alone a full hour, seemed just a bit too much to fill on a first go around.

    So a half hour it shall be; and I hope that at least the MLW crew of regulars will take the time to stop and listen, call in, liveblog and help make this inaugural outing at least a fun experiment, if nothing else. I have higher hopes than that — am considering doing a PR push of sorts, actually…

    But come October 22, 1pm my time, let’s make this a group effort, shall we? No matter what the “EmSock Is A Drama Queen / Attention Whore” crowd say, fact is, I’m just as insecure and shy as the next person, and it’d be so nice to have my friends with me on this new adventure.

    The Only Barrier to Communication; My Emotions and Me

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    We each experience many obstructions everyday of our lives.  There are physical fences we cannot or will not climb.  A roadblock might impede our progress on the thoroughfare.  Distance does us in.  Many do not wish to venture beyond familiar neighborhoods.  Proximity can limit our travel.  Time is an interesting concept.  Although, man created seconds, minutes, hours, and days, few of us seem able to separate ourselves from this obstacle. 

    As difficult as it might be to ford the river or sea, nothing compares with the challenge we feel when we know there is a need discuss subjects that cause us to feel defensive.  Delicate topics are taboo too.  Conversations of all sorts are difficult.  Personal or professional, what we say aloud and what we do not can cause palms to sweat, hands to clam, pulses to race, and a person to pace.  The heart is easily torn to pieces.  The head hurts at the thought of what might be a threat.  Communication can cleave, or calm; it can be the greatest bridge or the barrier that destroys a connection.

    As I approach a theme that is ubiquitous, I realize Communication is the least understood construct in our lives.  I could attempt to discuss what we do easily and yet struggle with from a singular perspective, that of an educator, a parent, a sibling, an employee, or a supervisor; however, I fear what I frequently experience.  If I endeavor to illustrate what occurs when, or how, from a particular perspective people will do what they typically do; they will isolate an incident, and intentionally or not ignore the essence of this discussion, emotions.

    As I approach a theme that is ubiquitous, I realize Communication is the least understood construct in our lives.  I could attempt to discuss what we do easily and yet struggle with from a singular perspective, that of an educator, a parent, a sibling, an employee, or a supervisor; however, I fear what I frequently experience.  If I endeavor to illustrate what occurs when, or how, from a particular perspective people will do what they typically do; they will isolate an incident, and intentionally or not ignore the essence of this discussion, emotions.

    As I approach a theme that is ubiquitous, I realize Communication is the least understood construct in our lives.  I could attempt to discuss what we do easily and yet struggle with from a singular perspective, that of an educator, a parent, a sibling, an employee, or a supervisor; however, I fear what I frequently experience.  If I endeavor to illustrate what occurs when, or how, from a particular perspective people will do what they typically do; they will isolate an incident, and intentionally or not ignore the essence of this discussion, emotions.

    Personally, I do not presume to know what any individual must do to ensure that in their life, communications will be effective.  Nor do I believe that any expert in linguistics can carve a path for you to pursue.  As I share a tale or two, I trust you dear reader will relate as humans do, from your own life experience.  Perchance that is the essential.  We encounter, exchange, empathize, and grow.  Life is an evolution with no singular solution.  Lets us stroll down this path together, and discover the knowledge available to each of us.  If we dare to dive more deeply than we do when we just talk, oh what treasures we might find.  Let us look at the barriers to communication and examine ways to build bridges.

    When we survey the research, we find the obscure and the obvious.  Broad statements, outlines that obfuscate or abstract are available.  Perhaps, we can fill in the blanks or read between the lines.  Some of the script seems basic, easy to comprehend.

    Barriers to Communication

  • Physical (time, environment, comfort, needs, physical medium)
  • Cultural (ethnic, religious, and social differences)
  • Perceptional (viewing what is said from your own mindset)
  • Motivational (mental inertia)
  • Experiential (lack of similar experience)
  • Emotional (personal feelings at the moment)
  • Linguistic (different languages or vocabulary)
  • Non-verbal (non-word messages)
  • Competition (noise, doing other things besides listening)
  • Words (we assign a meaning to a word often because of culture — note the difference in the meaning of “police” (contrast [affluent neighborhoods] or any inner city perspective) or  “boy” (contrast white male with black male perspectives)
  • Context (high / low)
  • Purpose 
  • Mode (differences in way a message is sent)
  • Gestures (misunderstood gestures are a major barrier see discussion on non-verbal language)
  • Variations in language – accent, dialect
  • Slang – jargon – colloquialism
  • Different forms or reasons for verbal interaction
  • Dueling – seeing who can get the upper hand (playing the dozens)
  • Repartee conversation – taking short turns rather than monologue
  • Ritual conversation – standard replies with little meaning to words themselves (i.e. most US greetings)
  • Self-disclosure.
  • That last element is the one that tugs at heart.  It is the hardest for many to accept or act on.  Yet, in my life open discourse is essential if we wish to cultivate enjoyment.  Communication, when effective brings closeness, counter to what our fears cause us to believe.

    I see you shake your head and say, no that is not so.  You might think, “How can I reveal of what lies deep within me.”  People will not understand.  They may ridicule, rebuff, or resent my beliefs.  ‘Tis true; they might in the moment.  At first blush, people can be reactive.  However, think of a time when you did not tell someone your deepest secret.  Did that not weigh heavily or your heart.  Often, we snub ourselves more severely than others might. 

    In our communication with self, we do exactly what we think others will do if they knew.  We shun us.  We deny our feelings.  The passion that pulses through our veins is veiled, just as it is in the dry list I presented earlier in this essay.  It seems safer to hide the emotions.  Thus, we travel on and justify, rationalize, reason, intellectualize, make excuses, blame . . . human beings mask the essence of a message in order to relieve the pain.  Then they speak of external barriers?

    I cannot speak to my boss; she is a b****!  He is a b******!  We do not speak the same language.  In his culture . . . He could not possibly comprehend.  She is unfamiliar with the language; she will not hear what I say.  He is a man; how could he understand.  You know how women are.  No, tell me.  I have yet to encounter any two that are alike.

    I have to wait so that I may speak to him face-to-face.  However, the time never comes.  Thus, you wait and wait for the perfect opportunity.  It never seems to come.  After awhile, you decide it is just too late.  Then you conclude, it is just too late.  Too much has happened since.  I guess I will have to suffer in silence.

    Communication can cause such anguish.  It can also bring great pleasure.  The two are not separate; nor are they equal.  They are the sum total of our unique being.  Our background and experiences cause us to feel as we do, hear as we might, understand in the manner that makes sense to us.  We may be critical, cordial, compassionate, or cruel; yet, no matter what our intent, another will perceive our words and deeds through their own filter.

    Woes may be similar, worries akin.  You, as I may be apprehensive when confronted with what I perceive is a need to say aloud what I think might be difficult.  I hesitate.  I vacillate.  I hem and hah.  I fear what I might mouth.  In my desire to foil a fight, perhaps I create one? 

    When faced with a dilemma I recall the words my Mom uttered, “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.”  Perchance, that would be best; however, it is my experience, what is not stated does far more damage than what be expressed poorly.

    If someone comes to me and complains, if they accuse me of doing what was detrimental, do I become defensive.  Might I attack, react, reason, or rationalize.  Whatever I choose I must understand, mere words are not enough to communicate the flood that is within me.  Nor will my statements be all that the other sees, hears, or grasps.  There is far more to an interaction than the superficial sense we have of what was said or done.

    Intellectually, I understand the inventory of barriers.  First, there must be a physical proximity before a dialogue can begin.  Yet, how often do you sit with your boss and never say a word when you object to a proposition.  The lack of talk suggests as much as constant chatter.  Yet, silence reveals no more than the sound of words.

    Men, women, and children often reside in the same house and rarely share more than a meal.  Many of us know our spouse or siblings as well as we do others, those outside the home.  Some sleep next to a life partner each evening; they hug, kiss, and become intimately intertwined, bodily interlaced.  However, one or both may loathe their lover.  If they have a story to tell, they will not share it with their supposed soul mate. 

    When there is a need to speak with an associate, an acquaintance, a parent, a pupil, a physician, a personal trainer, a person that represents a professional organization some people feel safe.  An emotional or physical distance can be grand.  At times, individuals feel freer when with those that do not have the emotional power to hurt them.  A cordon for some is a conduit for others.

    For a few, electronic communication is the medium of choice.  Numerous persons feel free to be when they chat in cyberspace.  Apparently, Internet Dating Much More Successful Than Thought. We look for love in all sorts of places.  The desire to connect to another human intimately runs deep.  What we will do for love and what we will say in pursuit of our passion  can have an enormous effect on communication.  When we feel spurned, some of us may say or not express something more profound.  When we are free to be, protected by the net that surrounds an electronic neighborhood, we may let it all fly.  How many of us have received a computer-generated correspondence that bit more than a byte.

    While all sorts of online exchanges can be misunderstood, social scientists say that faceless strangers are especially likely to run into problems.  “Through that initial phone call, people become real,” says Susan Barnes, a professor of communication at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Simply foregoing common pleasantries can make a message come across as rude-especially if communicators don’t know each other.  A rushed e-mail may give the impression that the exchange is unimportant.  And, because first impressions set the tone for subsequent interaction, Barnes says, the exchange can quickly go downhill.

    Nadler says the missing element in electronic communication is rapport, that in-sync state that’s easier to establish in person or by phone.  Facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice-all these social cues are missing in e-mail (and smiley-face “emoticons” can do only so much to replace them).  But because messages travel almost instantly, people act as if they’re in a face-to-face conversation, says David Falcone, a psychology professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia.  Because of this illusion of proximity, we’re duped into thinking we can communicate about touchy subjects, such as disagreements or criticisms, and that the tone of our writing will be perceived correctly.

    Furthermore, says Nadler, just because we can send a message anytime doesn’t mean someone is there to receive it.  Yet people often fear a delayed reply is a potential blow-off.

    And when we feel slighted, we are more apt to throw a fit via e-mail than we would by phone. “The anonymity of e-mail leads to rudeness,” says Barnes, adding we may not feel accountable, especially if we’ve never actually spoken to the other person.  Even if we mean well, the lack of second-by-second feedback, by which we constantly adjust our words in conversation, can cause us to go on blithely composing messages that will rub the recipient the wrong way.

    Nose to nose is not much better for communication.  Granted, common language can be a problem.  Conventionally we understand different dialects hamper our ability to communicate well.  I, as others might offer infinite and general scenarios to demonstrate how language can inhibit effective exchanges.  However, I suspect if you study the dynamics in each you may realize the verbal and nonverbal communication does not cause the problems.  Again, emotions, expectations, inferences, incite disagreements.  The fire in our heart, in our head ignites the flames

    With no common history and little interaction outside the workplace, the intersection of the two groups — which is occurring more frequently as Korean business and the Hispanic population boom — has been fraught with tension and cultural misunderstandings.

    Ricardo Garcia, 34, complains he wasn’t paid fully by a Korean contractor.  Fermin Soto, a 42-year-old immigrant from Mexico, said he had similar problems with a different contractor, adding that the Korean builder spoke down to Hispanic workers.

    The stories have made Ronald Tobar, who hasn’t worked for a Korean employer, wary.

    “I’m a little afraid of working for them,” said Tobar, a native of Guatemala. “I hear they are aggressive and strict and give the worst jobs to Hispanics.”

    Such perceptions exacerbate tensions between the groups, said Daniel Choi, a lawyer for the Virginia Justice Center, a legal advocacy group for immigrants that mainly represents Hispanics. Many of the workplace problems Choi encounters while working on behalf of Hispanic immigrants against Korean employees are grievances like unpaid wages that have nothing to do with race or culture. Yet, perceptions of ethnic and racial biases often complicate matters.

    When Thomas Yoon helped open the Super H Mart store in Fairfax in 2001, he noticed that some older Koreans, raised in the Confucian Korean culture where relationships are dictated by hierarchy and age, were offended that their Hispanic co-workers were tapping them on the shoulder to get their attention.  To the Koreans, the gesture was disrespectful.  To the Hispanic workers, the shoulder tap was simply a means of communication and signaled familiarity and comfort among the workers.

    While the difference in language and culture contributes to misunderstanding, I suspect what causes a greater riff is the economic disparity.  Money moves many a heart and a mouth.

    A gesture meant to state, “I like you,” may actually connote disdain.  If it seems as though we condescend when in the company of one that thinks them better, or less, that message is felt.  We need not express ourselves aloud.  People hear the unspoken.  Vernacular is victim to much misinterpretation.  Yet, dialect is nothing on balance; a division in dollars can be quite the deal.

    Love, money, and power all rolled into one can cause conflict in any liaison.  Often, when people speak of relationships between men and women we hear such tales of deep distress.  In another of the many available lists presented to enlighten, I read gender is a barrier to communication.  The author cited . . .

    Gender barriers
    There are distinct differences between the speech patterns in a man and those in a woman. A woman speaks between 22,000 and 25,000 words a day whereas a man speaks between 7,000 and 10,000.  In childhood, girls speak earlier than boys and at the age of three, have a vocabulary twice that of boys.

    The reason for this lies in the wiring of a man’s and woman’s brains. When a man talks, his speech is located in the left side of the brain but in no specific area.  When a woman talks, the speech is located in both hemispheres and in two specific locations.

    This means that a man talks in a linear, logical and compartmentalised way, features of left-brain thinking; whereas a woman talks more freely mixing logic and emotion, features of both sides of the brain.  It also explains why women talk for much longer than men each day.

    Ah, that is the excuse used to explain emotional differences.  I marvel at what for me is a deeply held myth.  Men have less words; the male mind is not wired as a woman’s might be.  There is much evidence to support humans are acculturated into the habits they acquire.  Brains are pliable and porous.  From the first, we are taught.  What we learn when we were so very young we believe is natural.  It is our nature to be stoic or expressive.  Boys and girls believe before they are able to grasp there are other options.

    In our society, boys are typically told they are hard-wired, hard-hearted, all that they are not.  Male adults model the behavior, for they too were  taught.  Men are persuaded to believe they are not demonstrative; they must not trust in order to survive.  William Pollack, Ph.D. author of Real Boys explains.  He understands as I have all my life; boys feel very deeply and have much to say.  They are “trained” from birth to speak less.

    Pollack’s message was a consistent one: The “boy code” imposes a “gender straitjacket” on boys, often leaving them without the experience or the tools to express their emotions safely. . . .

    It’s a series of outmoded, unspoken, unwritten rules of conduct by which, for generations, we have brought up boys. According to the code, boys must be tough, stoic, not dependent on others, inexpressive people who are not allowed to share their pain.

    Boys feel great pressure to emulate the code’s ideal boy.  Since they always fall short of this impossible ideal, they become frustrated, depressed, and angry.

    Once more, we see the effect of emotions concealed.  Emotions cloaked or presented as daggers are the barriers to communication in my mind.

    I ponder what for me is most profound.  What we hide from others [and too often from ourselves] hinders a healthy relationship.  With others and self.  Personally, I am haunted by the unspoken.  Ultimately, I conclude that I must speak, but how.

    How do I share what works on my mind?  I fear rejection, resentment, rebellion, a reprimand; yet, I understand that my words to him or her may feel as any of these.  It matters not whether I speak with my ward, my protégé, my mentor, or my muse.  Communication is fragile.  Talk is not cheap; it is priceless, so valuable, and yet so vague.

    If, as I begin to express myself, I see pain in his eyes, I heart the hurt in his voice, do I apologize for the harm I never intended to cause yet did?  Whether it be in a personal or professional encounter, words can wield as weapons.  Much sorrow is evoked when we offer the most innocent observation. 

    A person presumes to know what I meant when I say, “please,” “if you would,” “might I suggest,” and perhaps they are correct.  However, more frequently than not, what each of us hear has more to do with our history than that of the speaker.

    As I broach a conversation, I must wonder; yet rarely do we.  Will a wounded soul, and perchance we all are invisibly injured, be able to hear my words, or even let me come close enough to share my deepest anguish?  Will I, the truly impaired individual be able to separate myself from a need to defend myself, when I am so very offended?

    Will one so strong and healthy, in appearance, be open to foreboding words of his or her failure to achieve.  As a parent, a sibling, a supervisor, a mentor do I dare mention an error on the part of my muse.  Should I mention the pain I feel when she says I am mistaken or the hurt in my heart when he tells me my every action annoys him?  Do I speak to an associate about their behavior, or my reaction to their demeanor?  In what way do I approach a child, a neighbor, or my closest friend?  There is much I conceal, so many secrets, suppositions, and then there are the suggestions others offer, what might I consider if I hope to communicate effectively.

    Last week, in my employ, I was given an assignment.  I was commanded, ordered, directed, told, invited, welcomed, or asked to pen a tome.  The topic would be “barriers to communication.”  Internally I know to my core, I revel in this theme.  For years, I understood, what I wish to do in my life is write and broadly publish volumes of discussions on relationships.  The ways in which we interact fascinates me.  Misinterpretations boggle my mind.  An exchange of ideas, while on the surface is a simple notion.  However, I think there is no endeavor more complex.

    I studied this subject extensively over the years; yet, when this request was made, I felt a tinge of resentment.  I wanted to pursue personal prose, those that interest me.  Well, that must not be true, for indeed this discipline moves me as no other.  Yet, on this occasion I had no enthusiasm for in the work.

    Nevertheless, I started the research, and discovered the reasons I was less than intrigued.  Numerous sources furnished a simple analysis.  Almost all the references addressed the issue as it pertains to a persons’ professional life or the authors spoke in general.  How could they not?  They do not know us. 

    You dear reader, are likely familiar with the conventional wisdom.  What are the barriers and how might we break these.  The words read more than a decade ago resounded in my head.  Stephen Covey, in Seven Principles of Highly Effective Families wrote of how we are not different at work than we are at home.  Judy H. Wright, Parent Educator and Family Coach, also recalls her reveries of Doctor Covey writings. 

    Respect for Myself Respect for the Other Person

    I have a right to my feelings.  He has a right to his feelings.

    One of the hardest lessons we have to learn as humans is you can not force others to do as you wish and you must make choices based on this.  The only thing we truly have control over is our own inner thoughts and outer actions.  We can provide information, influence, and suggestions to our loved ones and associates, but the desire to change [or do] must be within the individual.  Accountability and responsibility involves claiming our own power and using our wisdom to create different results in life.

    Perhaps, that is what worked within me.  Correctly or not I felt as though I was “expected’ to address communication in a manner contrary to my passion.  It seemed, for whatever reason, I was meant to share techniques and these would guide readers.  I understand that people prefer to peruse outlines.  When asked to look deeper or contemplate the motivations and myths within, frequently men, women, and children state, “And your point is,” as though there is a central focus or a guidebook to assist us in the complexity of communication. 

    I struggle with such simplicity.  I fear a tome titled “Communication Made Easy.”  Perhaps billions would willingly purchase a copy of “Communication For Dummies.”  They might read with glee as though they found the answer; however, I cannot author that volume.

    Change the way in which you communicate; it is simple, straightforward, and can be accomplished if only you know the steps.  Allow for accessibility.  Be sensitive to false perceptions, those of others, for clearly we are each correct in our ideals.  Consider language and gender differences, even if these only deter communication because we believe they will.  Certainly, address your own interpersonal preferences and change these if they hinder communication, not that you might recognize the difference between your learned habit and what you believe to be your nature.  Nonetheless, break down those barriers.  Yikes!

    After I found numerous references that offer an index of solutions, I thought to myself, ‘Fine, surface, as these sources are, so too will be my essay.  I will do the project quickly.  I can supplant and expand on a reference or two.  Then I will have time to work on personal projects as I desire to do.’  The composition need not be glorious.  I have other interests to pursue. 

    Again, I remind myself I want to publish prose that discuss the delicate dilemma, how might we best communicate.

    I recalled the thousands of workers I have seen in my lifetime.  They all place personal priorities above the menial and meaningless assigned responsibilities.  Even when engaged in a profession they love, people gravitate to the personal.  Why would I be different?

    We cannot always complete each tasks with equal vigor.  Not every essay need be a masterpiece, nor will this one be.  I decided, I would pen this treatise without delay or enthusiasm.  [Remembering of course, I love, and wish to write volumes on the topic of communication.]

    Just as I was about to begin my labor, the telephone rang.  I received an electronic communication.  Other occupational concerns took precedence.  Then, the daily doings necessary to survive got in my way.  Family situations that needed by full attention mounted.  There were ample distractions.  However, honestly, I knew, I did not wish to work on this tome.  I began to examine why I did not feel as I do when I plunge into a blank page with intention. 

    I am told that many do not write or paint for as they gaze upon a blank page or canvas they feel great anxiety.  I rarely experience such a sense of doom or gloom when in front of an empty space, for I feel no voids.  I observe no vacant expanse.  For me, emotions, raw and exposed, threaten my ability to communicate, to complete tasks, to commence, or to accomplish what I wish to achieve.

    I realized at least a decade ago, what we experience in our professional lives, closely parallels what occurs in our private lives.  We are not one way at work and another way home.  You or I may wish to believe that we are profound in our profession and a failure domestically.  Perchance we excel in our familial endeavors and flounder in each employ.  Each of us, at times may muse we are different in various aspects of our life.  Yet, in truth, what guides us in one circumstance, leads us to travel down each and every avenue.  Our perceptions are extremely powerful.

    Consider the thoughts that occurred to you as you read the various words I used to describe how this project was presented to me.  Some of the terms may have made you cringe.  Those that implied this “assignment” was forced upon me establish that this is an unwelcome endeavor.  I loathe compulsory chores.

    Bear in mind the topic that evoked this essay was not my creation; however, it is my life mission.  Nevertheless, if doing this article is not my idea, then, I can resent the “request.”

    Most humans prefer to feel as though they have freedom of choice.  I definitely do.  Thus, an assignment feels as an obligation, a duty, a job, a task, and certainly not a personal preference.  If the idea was not mine, even though, in honesty, it is, I might feel put upon. 

    My own reaction to a glorious action, an invitation to do, as I deeply desire, can and will change the dynamic of further communication between myself and my “supervisor.’  The barrier, in this incident is as in every other conversation; the way in which I choose to interpret the intention of another affects the entire dialogue.

    Might we also examine how the message was delivered?  Did my ‘superior’ suggest I compose an essay on \ how we hear what we do and why.  Did he present the notion of such an examination as a possibility or was this exercise required, a mandatory pursuit.  In truth, it would not have mattered what “the man” said or how.  The manner in which my “boss” spoke would not have influenced my reaction as much as the mere fact that he is titled, the “person in charge.”  I am but a subordinate.

    In actuality, I am not above or below anyone.  None of us are.  Nor does anyone have the power to demand that we think, say, do, feel, or be, as they desire.  For each of us, our background, experiences, the effect of these and our emotions are the greatest barriers to communication.

    We hear what we judge was said.  Every one of us truly thinks that what we believe to be so is valid and perhaps, it is, for us, in that moment.  However, were we to open our minds, hearts, eyes, and souls we might discover another reality.  Author, Dr. Steven Covey shared a story that may help to explain what occurs in every aspect of our lives.

    These are deep problems, painful problems — problems that quick fix approaches can’t solve.  A few years ago, my wife Sandra and I were struggling with this kind of concern. 

    One of our sons was having a very difficult time in school.  He was doing poorly academically; he didn’t even know how to follow the instructions on the tests, let alone do well in them.  Socially he was immature, often embarrassing those closest to him.  Athletically, he was small, skinny, and uncoordinated — swinging his baseball bat, for example, almost before the ball was even pitched.  Others would laugh at him.  Sandra and I were consumed with a desire to help him.  We felt that if “success” were important in any area of life, it was supremely important in our role as parents.

    So, we worked on our attitudes and behavior toward him and we tried to work on his.  We attempted to psyche him up using positive mental attitude techniques.  “Come on, son!  You can do it!  We know you can.  Put your hands a little higher on the bat and keep your eye on the ball.  Don’t swing till it gets close to you.”  And if he did a little better, we would go to great lengths to reinforce him.  “That’s good, son, keep it up.”

    When others laughed, we reprimanded them.  “Leave him alone.  Get off his back.  He’s just learning.”  And our son would cry, and insist that he’d never be any good, and that he didn’t like baseball anyway  Nothing we did seemed to help, and we were really worried. 

    We could see the effect this was having on his self-esteem.  We tried to be encouraging, helpful, and positive, but after repeated failure, we finally drew back and tried to look at the situation on a different level.  At this time in my professional role, I was involved in leadership development work with various clients throughout the country. 

    In that capacity, I was preparing bimonthly programs on the subject of communication and perception for IBM’s Executive Development Program participants.  As I researched and prepared these presentations, I became particularly interested in how perceptions are formed, how they behave.  This led me to a study of expectancy theory, and self-fulfilling prophecies, or the “Pygmalion effect,” and to a realization of how deeply imbedded our perceptions are. 

    It taught me that we must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as at the world, we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.  As Sandra and I talked about the concepts I was teaching at IBM and about our own situation, we began to realize that what we were doing to help our son was not in harmony with the way we really saw him.  When we honestly examined our deepest feelings, we realized that our perception was that he was basically inadequate, somehow “behind.”

    No matter how much we worked on our attitude and behavior, our efforts were ineffective because, despite our actions and our words, what we really communicated to him was, “You aren’t capable.  You have to be protected.”  We began to realize that if we wanted to change the situation, we first had to change ourselves.  And to change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.

    Perceptions are punitive.  Often we punish others or ourselves unjustly.  After, I read Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, I understood.  Those that judge us most harshly, are far more critical of themselves.  Ultimately, the victim becomes the abuser.  The violence may not be physical.  It may be verbal, emotional, intellectual, each perhaps, far more traumatic than bumps and bruises to the body.  We criticize ourselves just as we were criticized.

    When you were young, which of these did you feel more often:

  • No matter what I do, my parents love me.
  • I can’t seem to please my parents, no matter what I do.
  • My parents don’t really notice me.
    The answers to such questions reveal more than about our childhood: they also tend to predict how we act in our closest relationships as adults.

    Our childhood shapes our brain in many ways – and so determines our most basic ways of reacting to others – for better and for worse.  If we felt well-loved in childhood, we tend to be secure in our relationships – but if not, then we’re more prone to chronic problems.

  • The primary paradox is that we trust what we believe to be true.  We are so certain that what we understand is accurate, that we cannot imagine how wrong we are.  Perchance, that too is, in large part is the puzzle.

    As children, impressionable and desirous of knowledge, many of us were told we were mistaken, in error, at fault.  What we heard is that our essence was flawed.  Parents, Moms, Dads, school Principals, teachers, people we truly admired certainly must know.  These esteemed individuals can see to our core.  Thus, they have the wisdom to describe us as we are.  As we age, what was said to us is what we say to ourselves.  Sadly, rarely do we realize, those revered individuals never stated what we heard, nonetheless, we internalize the identity we adopted so very long ago.  Indeed, neurological studies demonstrate the brain, chemically etches our patterns and our beliefs.

    As the week went on and this project hung over my head as a weight, I waited for the load to fall down upon me.  Auspiciously, it did.  However, not in the way I expected.

    A very close friend, one that I have known for decades shared a secret he held forever.  He never told another human being.  Yet, what remained hidden revealed itself in an ugly letter.  This kind and gentle man discovered that, a pain he caused in his youth, was known to another.  This other person held her hurt, just as he harbored his.

    Each was deeply scarred.  No words were ever spoken.  Interpretations became truth.  Insinuations and implications grew in intensity.  The mind filled in for what was never spoken of.  Each of these individuals now five and six decades old, is wounded in ways one would never imagine to look at them.

    While both have a semblance of success, the circumstances, never communicated, has hindered their growth.  They have achieved financially, although that was not enough to compensate for the horror they felt and hide.  His and her accomplishments were inadequate; they did not fill the void left by the unmentionable.  The health of each, physically, mentally, emotionally, and possibly intellectually suffered.  Neither felt worthy of awards or accolades.

    She blames him.  He placed the onus on himself.  Perhaps, deep down she thinks she was responsible for  the trauma.  We cannot know for sure.  She refuses to engage in a significant exchange.  He shutters.  How might he ever repent.  The hidden hurt now exposed; yet still not discussed scars the hearts more deeply.

    A life, two lives ended long ago because there were barriers to communication.  It matters not what the blockades were; nor is it important that we know the specifics of what happened oh so very long ago.  The details, indeed, might allow us to feel separate or superior.  “That would never happen to me.”  What occurs often, in the lives of every human being is we, I, do not communicate when we must.  When we do, frequently we are defensive.

    As a species, we’re not very skilled at talking about tough topics.

    Sure, we can gather our courage and blurt out what’s been bothering us for weeks, months, or even years.  We get it out, unload, and move on, leaving hurt feelings and the seeds of another misunderstanding in our wake.

    Part of the problem, Harvard researchers say, is that we approach such confrontations thinking that we not only understand our own point of view, but we also believe we know for sure what the other person did, said, and thought on the subject.  And we think our view is right.

    But in fact, they say, we’re usually wrong, which explains why these kinds of talks often go so badly.

    “When we get into difficult interpersonal conflicts, it’s not very natural for us to see the conflict from the other person’s point of view,” said Douglas Stone, associate director of the Harvard Negotiation Project.  “But it’s a skill that is crucial to learn.”

    empathy, I believe is the best educator.  I cannot ever truly know whom you are within.  When I enter into a conversation, a negotiation, a conciliation, or a concession with a close mind, certain that you are less than I, then, communication will be but a dream.  If we are to remove the force that keeps us separate we must listen, place ourselves where we have never been, in the heart, mind, and soul of another.

    In fact, the way most of us broach difficult topics dooms the conversation from the start, they say. Openings such as “I think we should discuss why you’ve been so inconsiderate lately,” immediately put the other person on the defensive and leads to an “I have not been inconsiderate” response rather than a talk about why he or she has been getting in at 1 a.m. and waking you up by playing the stereo.

    Instead of venting your opinion, the researchers say, you should do at least as much learning about the other person’s point of view as you do talking about your own. Perhaps the person is playing music so late because he or she works two jobs to make ends meet and this is the only time available to study for a history of music course.

    Without asking, you’ll never know.

    “Go in and remember to inquire as much as you tell your story,” said Bruce Patton, the Negotiation Project’s deputy director.

    The greatest barrier to communication is I.  You, he, and she are as I.  Too often, we talk and do not listen.  We hear what we plan to say.  The words of a friend, a family member, and a fellow worker are frequently background noise to our own thoughts.  What escapes from the lips of our neighbor falls to the ground.  We are consumed with emotions; thus, rarely do we communicate completely with compassion.

    I invite you to look at yourself, the way in which you interact with others at home or at work.  Do you invite discussion?  Might you embrace an opportunity to learn, to discover, or to authentically connect, or do you prefer to be in control.

    Please consider we can never imagine what is within another.  Why they did as they did.  Please trust, if you are hurt, so too are they.  I know it is hard to accept that he or she did not mean to demean, destroy, or diminish your worth.  Sadly, they, as you have emotions, raw, and exposed to the elements.

    If you wish to end the madness, remove the line of defense, the molehill in your mind and heart that is now a mountain.  The barrier to communication is the one, or many, you, I, we create.

    Intelligence is Emotional; Empathy is the Best Educator . . .

  • Difficult Conversations. By Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, Sheila Heen
  • Barriers to  Communication  Lakeside High School.
  • Seven Barriers to  Great Communication.  By Eric Garner, M.D. Copyright, .
  • The Pitfalls of Email. By Marina Krakovsky.  Psychology Today. March 22, 2006
  • The Final Showdown Between  In-Person and Cyberspace Relationships, By John Suler.  The Psychology of Cyberspace.
  • Internet Dating Much More Successful Than Thought.  Science Daily. February 23, 2005
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. By Stephen R. Covey.
  • Making Sense of Our Lives. By Daniel Goleman.  May 9, 2007
  • ‘That Is Not What I Meant At All’: Negotiation Project researchers ease difficult everyday conversations.  By Alvin Powell.  Harvard  Gazette.
  • Assuming Personal Responsibility in Relationships By Judy H. Wright
  • Interview: William Pollack–on decoding boys.  NEA Today.  Find Articles September 1999
  • Koreans, Hispanics Work for Harmony, Cultures Can Clash In On-the-Job Mix. By Cecilia Kang. Washington Post.?Sunday, October 7, 2007; Page A01
  • “Fair and Balanced” Fox; Future of the Wall Street Journal?

    FOX’s “balanced” analysis of the Petraeus hearings

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    You knew it.  I had no doubt.  Fox News is not fair; nor does it present a balanced review of the news.  Even Fox News London Bureau Chief, Norvell admitted to the bias in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed article years ago.

    Here is what Norvell fessed up to in the May 20 Wall Street Journal Europe:

    Even we at Fox News manage to get some lefties on the air occasionally, and often let them finish their sentences before we club them to death and feed the scraps to Karl Rove and Bill O’Reilly.  And those who hate us can take solace in the fact that they aren’t subsidizing Bill’s bombast; we payers of the BBC license fee don’t enjoy that peace of mind.

    Fox News is, after all, a private channel and our presenters are quite open about where they stand on particular stories.  That’s our appeal.  People watch us because they know what they are getting.  The Beeb’s institutionalized leftism would be easier to tolerate if the corporation was a little more honest about it.

    Nonetheless, while the truth was out laid in the open, it remained concealed, at least in the States.  In America, the trademark is retained.  Our countrymen did not have easy access to the above editorial.  In the United States, appearances persevere.  The standard slogan is solid in the minds of viewers.  Fox News makes certain of that. 

    Less than a year before the aforementioned honest editorial, Fox News worked diligently to retain the image of balanced broadcasting.  In October 2004, the same esteemed publication, The Wall Street Journal ran a retraction after the periodical accurately described Fox News as “a network sympathetic to the Bush cause and popular with Republicans.”  That is quite a feat.  A prestigious paper such as the Journal apologizes for what we can see is a truism.  We know not how the Network obtained such an act of contrition, but here it is . . .

    News Corp.’s Fox News was incorrectly described in a page-one article Monday as being sympathetic to the Bush cause.

    Perchance those at The Wall Street Journal did not do their own timed study of reporting.  Perhaps American editors missed the earlier essay in the European pages.  Possibly, even years ago, The Wall Street Journal was preparing for the inevitable takeover.  As we assess the duplicity of “Fair and Balanced” at Fox, and the previous discussions of its coverage by the Dow Jones and Company periodical, we might be better able to understand the recent transition at the paper.

    A newspaper once thought more respected than all others sells out to a man considered slick and sensational.  Perhaps, the Dow Jones publication was ready for Rupert Murdoch’s surprise $5 billion bid.  After all, the owner of Fox News Corporation personifies the recent contradictory reports at the Wall Street Journal. 

    Mr. Murdoch has tended to put a strong personal imprint on papers he owns, from the feisty tabloid New York Post to papers in Britain and Australia.  He is known for phoning editors and even reporters about individual stories.  The Post’s media and business sections sometimes delight in skewering rivals, and Mr. Murdoch’s political preferences have been clear in the news pages as well as the editorial page.

    Similarly, News Corp.’s Fox News cable channel, despite its slogan “fair and balanced,” is considered by many liberals to pursue a conservative agenda in its news coverage as well as its editorial opinions.

    “Fair and Balanced” meet “Bold and Biased.”

    Sources . . .

  • Fox News Admits Bias! By Timothy Noah.  Slate. Tuesday, May 31, 2005, at 12:40 PM ET
  • Corrections & Amplifications.  Wall Street Journal.?October 26, 2004
  • Rupert Murdoch’s surprise $5 billion bid for Dow Jones and Company.  By Dennis K. Berman and Sarah Ellison.  Wall Street Journal. May 2, 2007