The Problem With Communication

I went to mass yesterday at St. Anne’s Parish in Bukit Mertajam. Later, after the service, while at breakfast back home I asked my better half what she thought of the sermon. She said, “I didn’t understand what Father was saying”. Which was surprising because I thought I had listened to a good homily! Annie, my wife, continued, “Maybe it’s because you really tried to listen. I tried but I couldn’t.” Classic communication problem. One message two different results.

This morning, I logged on to the Catholic News Agency and found that the Cardinal of Sydney had launched the Catholic Social Networking site – Xt3.com, to help connect young people ahead of next month’s World Youth Day. It’s similar to other popular social networking websites like Facebook and MySpace. The chief reason being, in the words of Cardinal George Pell, “….ensure that young Catholics who cannot travel to Sydney for the event would be able to experience it in real time”. Wow! Read the full article here.

I was at the 1995 World Youth Day in Manila and all we had then was e-mail! Handphones were still at the 1st generation stage. SMS was just beginning to happen. Now everyone can SMS!. And, Xt3 has arrived. Surely, as time goes by, such communication devices will evolve. But will our communication have improved in tandem? Most likely not. Because it’s not the devices that are at fault, rather the people who use them.

“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Irish playwright and essayist said once. Which is what probably happened to me in church that day. And I liked this explanation from http://www.fastcompany.com:

Communication occurs when someone understands you – not when you speak. Don’t mistake speaking for communication. Words are merely the tip of the iceberg. They’re what the world gets to see. What they don’t get to see is the thinking that lies below the surface of the water. And as such, they don’t always understand where you’re coming from even if they hear your words

John Paul II in his last message for World Communications Day in January 2005 addressed communicators in this way:

“Modern technology places at our disposal unprecedented possibilities for good, spreading the truth of our salvation in Jesus Christ and for fostering harmony and reconciliation” and goes on to say, “the model and pattern of all communication is found in the Word of God himself. The Incarnate Word has established a new covenant between God and his people – a covenant which also joins us in community with one another. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph.2:14)

May we all then become better communicators, drawing from the example and life of Jesus himself, at home, in schools, our places of work, in our churches
(and pulpits!), organizations, in society, wherever and whenever the occasion calls for.

Go here for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Communication Campaign.

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