The Signs of Communication

With communication today, two extremities of communication exist: self-expression and speaking with discretion. Self-expression, or speaking openly on any topic without much censorship or use of etiquette, is common by most of the population. The second, opposite extreme, is speaking with discretion and saying very little in order to preserve one’s reputation. This is more typical of professionals and anyone of class, although it may not necessarily always the case. How are either of these improving the way we communicate? How are both of these skewing the line of civilized communication?

The first extreme of communication is self-expression which has become an acceptable way to communicate today for most Americans. Unlike other countries, the United States does not have laws against hate speech. What a person says has no societal limitations in most settings. With this increase in self-expression, and decrease in societal parameters for civilized speech, the majority of the population feels they can say whatever they want—and for the most part they do. There is little thought put into what is said. Rather than considering how what is communicated might hurt or offend another, the priority is placed on voicing opinions without discretion, using uncivilized expressions, and being heard.

In the past, social standards influenced improper communication. In Roman and Greek cultures, speaking was seen as an art which had to be mastered before a person was given the right to speak on a topic. It could take years to master becoming an orator. The aspiring speaker had to first learn the art by studying the writings of philosophers, mastering grammar, and learning how to speak. In more modern times, within the United States, social standards set the acceptability of civilized speech and good etiquette. Even a minor comment could eliminate a person from social circles. Differences of opinion could certainly make for a worthy topic of discussion. However, being cordial was expected at a minimum for more vivacious discussions which could lead to arguments. It was possible for people to be accepted, although they might have differing opinions, and still be valued and respected with human dignity.

Within the last 50 years, there has been a shift to self-expression. The ability to say whatever is on a person’s mind is acceptable whether in person or online. There are hardly any limits to what a person may speak about. Open communication is seen as a way to provide transparency and the “honest story” of any person or situation. While this has many benefits, it crosses a line when dignity is stepped upon and boundaries are crossed. Consideration is necessary before speaking with regards to whom a person is talking to, if the topic is appropriate, and the choice of respectful words which are said for a pleasant conversation. Talking about anything can be very damaging. In fact, much of what people talk about has veered away from “ideas” and “intellectual topics”. Instead, what is more common is digressive speech such as gossip or speaking of topics which are inappropriate, very personal or sensitive in nature, or comments which might advertise the negative rather than focus on the positive. There is no preservation of the human dignity of a person. What needs to be said, is what is said, regardless of how it may hurt or offend the other person.

On social networks, a simple post can flare up into a war of replies within seconds. This trolling is often classified inaccurately as a “discussion” and “freedom of speech”. It would be better described as intolerance for a different view which triggers others chiming in to counter the post with an escalating degree of negativity and close-mindedness. These can occur even on simple posts that may not have any intent to attract opinions, but which result in a soapbox of negative, heated, responses. While self-expression allows for openness and problem solving, it can also open the door for adversity. Communication on digressive topics, and intentionally creating unnecessary conflict are examples of unhealthy communication. Speaking about anything without consideration of another person is rude and uncivilized.

The Power of Silence
The other extreme for communication is to choose to say very little or to remain silent. By speaking cautiously a person is more likely to preserve their good reputation. It also provides safety, by finding no partiality to any party or issue. The person remains politically correct by withholding an opinion. In many spiritual teachings, silence is perceived as golden. By remaining silent, a person can reflect wisdom. Remaining silent, a person does not reveal what they know or do not know. Likewise, by not speaking, there is less of a chance of speaking in an unintelligent manner, speaking offensively, or divulging information which should not be revealed. Remaining silent is also a way to absorb heated conflict, inappropriate speech, and to buy in time to respond with a more thoughtful response.

There is a time and a place to speak. George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter”.  While we should speak out rather than remain silent on situations of injustice, on political views or ways that may affect our life, saying less, rather than more can be a way which contributes to civility. Voicing an opinion without consideration, can breed hate more than solve problems. This is where uncivilized speech occurs. In today’s culture, it is more likely that the freedom of speech is taken too far through the self-expression of uncivilized conversation. Self-expression can be the ignition of unnecessary conflict just to express an opinion. When freedom of speech is taken to this extreme, responding with silence can help swing the equilibrium of communication, bringing it back to more peaceful speech and civilized communication. Knowing when to speak and when not to speak is important.

Finding the Balance with Human Dignity and Respect
Some social and professional settings still have standards for communication, although uncivilized speech is more popular. Realizing that there is a place for self-expression while maintaining a standard for civilized communication is the challenge which we face today. Many do not recognize digressive communication. Being desensitized by the current standard, hardly anyone today questions inappropriate speech which is on the tongues of most and found in media and by leaders. If culture continues to accept digressive speech, it is a reflection on our country, acceptability for digression and lack of etiquette, and is an insult to the right to the Freedom of Speech which we have. The First Amendment was created for Americans to speak up for freedom and liberties for all. With an acceptability of hate speech and speaking on digressive topics, society is infected with negativity, hate, unacceptability, intolerance for differences, immaturity, a lack of professionalism, and lack of human dignity. It shows an inability to communicate and interact with others. For a country which prides itself on being a melting pot, this is not congruent. Although not everyone will get along, there needs to be a greater degree of respect for differences whether it is race, belief, lifestyle, ability, economic or any other characteristic. Valuing differences and human life needs a higher tolerance and acceptance. Inequality will always exist, but human dignity needs to be upheld. Since the primary problem of unacceptability stems from inappropriate speech, correcting communication that is off-balance can help set society upright to a culture with a civilized standard.

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Respect the Box of Chocolates

Mysterious, chocolate covered candies of sweetness all in different shapes and coatings lined up in neat little rows, ready to be enjoyed. Referencing the card or box is the only way to tell what might be delighting your taste buds next. Which one is the ‘best’ is hard to tell, but most of them will probably suit your fancy.  

Each person is unique, just like these chocolates in a box. Many classify people by trying to match them against the persona of ‘the ideal type’. Whomever sets these criteria listens to what our culture finds as the most satisfying, pleasing, and acceptable. These qualities are sure to make 100% of everyone happiest. Usually the recommendations as to what is ‘best’ are in reference to physical attributes or materialistic possessions. If you want the perfect person, you must look for xyz or else, it won’t work. If you do not have these clothes, this house, this demeanor, this belief system, then you are not in-bounds. These hypercritical people spend so much time pointing out what is wrong with others, instead of using their time more productively identifying what does works for them and seeking companionship with those Even better use of time would be for these nitpickers to work on fine-tuning what is lacking in themselves which might be contributing to their unhappiness.

Self-confidence is sometimes achieved in a negative way by nitpicking at others faults in areas which are not a concern to that person. A much better approach would be to focus on the attributes that are best liked in others. By accentuating these, a person learns to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual and the gifts that person bring to this world. If a person is not liked, move on. It’s that simple. There are 7.5 billion people who are out there to be met. What good does it do to tear people down who you don’t like? In fact, when it comes to civility it is considered rude to point out what you do not like in others. A person cannot be that attached to what they do not like in someone. It is better to walk away rather than try to get another person to change to meet what you would like to see, especially if it is not important to them. People are not meant to be forced to fit into the same sized cube. Not everyone is going to look the same, believe the same, or want the same things you do. 

To some, respecting differences in others comes naturally. They enjoy people because they are different, and there is enough common ground which exists to maintain a friendship. These people find it refreshing to be around many different kinds of people who add an eclectic aspect to their social interactions. A wider perspective is needed for those who cannot see past differences. Instead of seeing uniqueness, or focusing on the positive attributes, they become hostile and attacking. These people would benefit from wearing special filtered glasses. They need to realize that their cube is not the only cube. Expanding their minds with special glasses might open new frontiers for them.

Respect others with silence and an open mind toward learning about their perspective or beliefs. Find commonality, grow empathy, and accentuate the positive. Try to observe that a view might be different does not qualify the acceptance of a person’s existence. When despised differences are made into the intolerance of the person’s existence, stereotypes and discrimination form. Each person, no matter what their perspective is, should be given dignity and human worth. Some people will be better suited for you than others, and in fact, most probably will work with your persona of ideal, and even within the margins you have around that ideal which define your acceptability range…but for those who aren’t within your framework, destroying them because they are not the same as you, is not OK. There is value in having differing opinions, and civility should still be maintained despite differences.

Try this. Buy a variety box of chocolates. You can even find a small box at the dollar store. When you open it look at the chocolates and I would guess a smile would come to your face. Those, you could say, are all the people you could meet—you just don’t know what they are about or what they are inside. You are only judging by appearance and what you think they are about. Then pick one, delicately take a bite and admire the inside, and see if it is satisfactory. It probably is a taste of the divine. If not, then you can try another one. What would be worse never getting to know anything different than your view and giving it some worth. In essence it is insulting the Maker because of all the reasons you cannot stand this on or that one, and not finding any quality to appreciate. There is beauty and appreciation to be found in everyone. What is so nice is the uniqueness of each individual..

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Box of Chocolates

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Building Steem

Blocks of triangles, ovals and rectangles all standing together to build a structure. Together building the creation. Not one block is an unnecessary block but an essential part of the whole construction of a life created uniquely and importantly by God. Yet when the others see a part as an oddity rather than unique, suddenly the structure can crumble.

A Square Box
Being different can be viewed as a uniqueness or oddity. Until a child is fed with knowledge of being different by external factors, they will be satisfied with who they are. It is when a child is compared to others, either by themselves or others, that they begin to be aware of differences. Over time, the child’s self-esteem can be affected as a result of being categorized as an outcast of society. Children with self-anomalies may face additional struggles with self-esteem, even more than the average child, due to obvious physical differences. Having a positive self-image and defining one’s own worth, can help counter thoughts or opinions which set them apart.

Your Circle
Each person has a uniqueness about them. As parents, one of the goals in raising children should be to build a strong, internal character of self-worth. Parents can do this in several ways. One of the easiest ways is loving the child for who they are and teaching them to love others. Praise and affirmation can go a long way in positively reinforcing a child’s self-esteem until they can sustain a belief in self-worth on their own. Frequently praising a child for their efforts and recognizing ways they’ve achieved success can increase motivation and teach them to love themselves. Parents have a key role in teaching a child how to have a good mindset and outlook on life. By teaching a child to find positiveness and successes in each day, the child learns how to have a positive mindset. This builds positive energy and a positive outlook on their world and life which they can then apply to themselves internally. Other ways a child can learn to build self-esteem is through their interaction with others. A parent can be a good example in teaching a child how to love others by doing something for them. Intrinsic benefits come from being charitable. Even something as simple as a smile or a friendly hello to someone can be contagious and change an entire interchange into a positive one. The child’s self-esteem can grow from within themselves and their interaction with the world around them.

The Triangle On Top
Parent’s also have a responsibility to teach children their human existence matters. Not only do they have worth to their parents and world, but moreover by the one who created all existence, God. By teaching religion, parents teach children value given to them beyond this world.

What about Checking the Foundation
Parents should be aware of any differences in a child’s behavior which may be a result of low self-esteem. Children with low self-esteem may be more nervous, lack motivation, or have a lack of confidence. Dive in and find out what is causing unusual behavior by asking questions. Even if a child may not be successful, their effort can be noticed and praised as something to be proud of. Acknowledge what may be bringing a child down by inviting conversation with the child asking them why they feel they may not have been as successful. Don’t try to resolve the issue or smooth it over but be a support to them. As parents there is a responsibility to have faith in the child and their ability. Encourage the child to keep trying and preserve. This teaches motivation in overcoming difficulties which will help them in future struggles. Parents can rejoice with their child in small successes by focusing on their positiveness accomplishments no matter how small. These small stepping stones are golden in building self-esteem. Over time, the child learns to commend themselves and find ways to build self-esteem on their own through self-affirmation.

The Right Stuff
Another method of building self-esteem, is through journaling. A parent can establish daily journaling as part of a child’s routine. The child can notate what they have accomplished for the day, write something positive about the day they experienced or something they did for someone, and what they are most proud of that day. This builds a habit of daily self-affirmation and grows self-esteem through realizing positive experiences.

The Windows
In older children, self-esteem can be affected by media, the internet, and more specifically through social media sites. It is important to monitor social media to gauge how it may be affecting children or young adults with regards to self-image. More information is shared online than ever before. The constant exchange of information can easily lead to social bullying, formation of negative thoughts, and jealousy. At the same time, there is plenty of positive social sharing online which can help build self-esteem in young adults. Monitoring how media is affecting your child and having open discussions about what they are being exposed to can proactively prevent low self-esteem and depression.

A Definition of Structure
The world will always see differences. Those with negative self-esteem make it their mission to tear others down because they lack a true value of self-worth of themselves. When we like ourselves, we can better accept the differences of others. There is negative unity found in destruction of those who are not accepted. This negative unity can be contagious as it is magnified and built upon to grow a militia of “popularity” versus “outcast”. Teaching your child to deal little with this and walk away is the best solution. Positiveness builds up, not divides in dishonor of humankind.

The Masterpiece
Teaching children ways of how to react to their environment in a positive way is essential to building good self-esteem. Constant affirmation and recognition of a child’s success teaches children they have worth and eventually results in the child being able to maintain good self-esteem themselves. A child is a gift, just as every human is, and realizing this and learning positive reactions to negative experiences at an early age can result lifetime of good self-image.

Look who’s talking. The Builder.

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