Here’s me communicating about communication

by Loolwa Khazzoom • May 22, 2010 • Keeping It Raw

When I was in high school, my best friend stopped talking to me. I wrote her a letter outlining what you could call my friendship manifesto. In a nutshell, I felt that people needed to communicate with each other – to express their feelings, instead of just shutting the door and running away. I wish I could find that letter, because it encapsulated what I believe to this day.

Communicating allows the chance for transformation. To be heard, seen, understood, recognized. To grow. Communicating, sharing our innermost thoughts and feelings, allows magic to happen. As the ring on the finger of a guy I dated said, “Obstacles are opportunities for transformation.”

Of course that guy disappeared on me without communicating. So much for the ring. And the guy. But I firmly believe in that message, and I have lived it out in my life.

The problem for me is, most people don’t seem to be into that way of operating. Most people seem to be into shutting people out and caving in to fears and not risking authentic expression.

The deepest way someone can hurt me is by disappearing on me. Not only does it feel disrespectful to our friendship and to me, but it doesn’t allow either of us the opportunity to learn, to grow, to reach that transcendent nirvana state that lies on the other side of conflict.

I recently had a situation where a gal pal pulled some bullshit on me. Rather than being the one to communicate about it, I just said something along the lines of, “OK fine,” with an irritated tone. Not only was I half-asleep at the time, but I just didn’t feel like yet again being the one to do the communicating, certainly not in that moment. I’ll leave it up to her to raise the issue, I decided. Besides, I knew I always could discuss it down the line if and when I felt like it.

I’ve been in this place where I’m experimenting with treating relationships the way I treat my business, which is very pragmatic. In my professional life, I accept things the way they are and think how I can work a situation to my advantage, instead of crying about stuff that isn’t going the way I want it to. I move fast and furiously, like in some jacked up video game or military action, where you just go go go.

It’s too soon to tell if the gal pal has bailed ship, or if she just hasn’t come around to talking yet, but I was discussing the situation with my 12 step sponsor this afternoon. I expressed my frustration at my friend’s lack of communication initiative thus far. “But she is communicating,” my sponsor said.

Good point.

It’s true, and I’ll be the first to admit it: I think my ideas about communication are superior. I think that everyone will get along a whole lot better and be a whole lot happier if they do it my way. It’s basic. It’s simple. And it can save a whole lot of heartache and who knows, even wars:

  1. Be honest with yourself.
  2. Do your work to ensure that you can communicate clearly, effectively, and lovingly.
  3. Express your authentic feelings, even when it’s scary.
  4. Listen with genuine care to other people’s experiences.
  5. Stick with the conversation process, even when it gets hard.
  6. Acknowledge your part in a fucked up dynamic, apologize where it is appropriate, and do your work to clean up your side of the street.
  7. Acknowledge your limitations, and state your boundaries clearly yet compassionately.
  8. If you need to walk away, do so in a way that is clear and respectful.

I get it that I have expectations in relationships that other people did not necessarily sign up for. I get it that in a way, my being judgmental of other people’s styles of communicating (but seriously, slamming a door out of anger and saying everything’s fine? Are we really going to call that communicating?) is being disrespectful of their choices on some level.

But how about standards.

I’m thinking of it similarly to the whole fascism/democracy thing: In a fascist state, people with democratic ideas are not allowed to express those ideas. In a democracy, however, people with fascist ideas are free to express them (as long as doing so is not life-threatening, of course — the line of which is ripe with controversy).

 If you don’t want to communicate with me, fine. But can’t you just tell me that? And while you’re at it, can’t you just explain to me why?

I come from a long line of Iraqi Jews who do everything by subtle hints. When my seven Iraqi Jewish aunts did not want my mom running around barefoot, they all bought her shoes. My mom, a European-American mutt from the Midwest and South, thought they had some kind of shoe fetish. She kept thanking them for the shoes and continuing to run around barefoot.

I get the grace and sensitivity that can go hand in hand with more subtle forms of communication. You don’t burn bridges, you don’t out-and-out offend people, you don’t risk changing a dynamic, yada yada yada. But you also can confuse the hell out of people, create tons of misunderstandings, and lose opportunities for connection, growth, and the ecstasy that come with them.

Anyhow. I do see a place I can grow here: Recognize non-communication as a form of communication. Stop feeling mad at people for communicating in ways that in my book are dysfunctional and ineffective. Recognize their way as the way that works for them. Respect it, even if I think it’s idiotic. (Wait, am I respecting it, if I think it’s dumb?) And either stay the hell away from those people, or connect with them in a way that is cautious and, in my book, superficial.

Of course, I think that cautious and superficial connections are sad and boring and cheating everyone out of an amazing connection to Divinity. Which, seriously? Just feeds my recent hermit tendencies.

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About Loolwa

Loolwa KhazzoomLoolwa Khazzoom has worked with leading media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN, Rolling Stone, and ABC News. In addition, she has published two books and has lectured at prestigious venues including Barnard Center for Research on Women, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Harvard University. Loolwa is passionate about health, music, dance, multiculturalism, and Judaism.

Holistic Media, Marketing, PR

Loolwa Khazzoom is a a public relations manager specializing in holistic media, holistic marketing, holistic public relations, and holistic promotions. Her services include branding and messaging development, image and communications management, website content development and optimization, social media management, traditional media campaign management, book development, and in-house writing and editing.

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