Of all the villains of social cooperation and harmony, the most common and deceptively insidious is the absence of communication. More powerful and venomous curses exist to wreak pain and chaos within oneself, but a failure to earnestly convey thoughts deals damage within oneself, within others, and to the resultingly frail bridge between the two. Where acquaintances fall short of mutual understanding or the attempt of such, countless social scourges may take root and entangle all about them in ever-tightening brambles. Where one isolates oneself beyond one’s means to remain in good mental attitude, the personal villains may easily plug all air holes in a steadily flooding heart.
Inversely, good communication champions healthy relationships and positive minds. Ideas can be reliably shared and refined, and misunderstandings can be identified and remedied. Even when armed with a modest knack for dialectic, tenacity at communication will certainly foster better understanding between two parties, though with a provision that will be described shortly. When one is caught in an internal tarpit of griefs, doubts, resentments, or guilts, conveying such a state to a trusted (or even an untrusted) companion can be immensely helpful, if not necessary. Self-reliance is a valuable and healthy strength to possess, but obstinance, whether born from distrust or arrogance, can sunder any who refuse communication. Waiting for outside help to find one by chance is risky and unwise, as even if help discovers one trapped within oneself, the help may inadvertently lodge one deeper in isolation and misery if not given proper illumination by the trapped.
Communication may appear to be an unstable tool, capable of moving great weights when applied well, but equally capable of cutting the hand of the holder when improperly wielded. This is unfortunately true, but the potential damage can be mitigated or undone with good practice. The first factor in healthy and effective communication is understanding what one is trying to convey. If one does not have a grasp on one’s own message, then it is unlikely that the message will be translated as one might hope. Still, there are times when one should communicate for the purpose of clarifying one’s own ideas, and so cannot already grasp them. In such cases, that should be made known to the other and they, if they wish to know what one is trying to say, should thoughtfully and patiently assist in narrowing down the idea. Rushing to speak before one’s idea has formed jeopardizes understanding.
The second factor of good communication is a combination of intent and tact. Thoughtful respect and care for oneself and the other should be the intent behind any conversation between two persons. Honesty is almost always the best tactic for any conversation or other forms of interaction. The exceptions are hard to identify, and risking dishonesty should never be done without whole-hearted conviction that the deception is necessary to avoid deep, long-lasting damage to either persons. Honesty and care, together, form genuine communication. By diligently adhering to both, speaking one’s mind becomes clearer, the message itself is likely to be clearer, and the recipient may better absorb one’s meaning. Dishonesty rightfully leads the other to question one’s motives, which in turn leads the other to become less receptive. Antagonistic or muddied intent, whether conveyed through honesty or dishonesty, prepares the recipient for the growth of more resentment and distrust.
Communication is never a one-sided event, and the next factors relate to being on the receiving side of a message. Patience and humor are very important, but often forgotten or taken for granted. Do not assume the person speaking knows exactly what to say at all times. The other may need time to process one’s words and to formulate their own. Impatience at these moments discourages both present and future discussions, while patience may give each the courage to speak. Humor has several important uses in conversation. It can lighten a mood or break through unhealthy blocks when wielded at the right moments and with the right words, though careless use of it can do the opposite. As a listener, one should maintain humor within oneself. As with patience, do not react too hastily to the other person, particularly when their message appears confusing or hurtful. Consider whether the other may be joking, or if they perhaps misspoke. If unsure, seek clarification, careful not to be accusing or antagonistic. If their message was indeed meant to be hurtful, consider why they have chosen to be unkind. Is the attack personal, or are they channeling their unhappiness into words at the nearest target? A personal attack may be due to a misunderstanding, or a misguided reaction to something one has done wrong. Incidental insults as a result of a bad mood should not be taken as personal. Instead, offer the other space and time, or offer to listen to what has been troubling them. One’s internal humor should keep one relaxed enough to respond constructively.
It should come as no surprise to anypony that has difficulty speaking to others that effort is also a factor in good communication. When spending too long internalizing thoughts and feelings, one must make an effort to open up and share with others. If one doesn’t know how to phrase a thought, put effort into clarifying and organizing the thought. Genuinely try to reign in overly defensive or offensive reactions before one responds. Be generous with one’s time and energy when communicating. As hard as these can be, the following is perhaps the most difficult for the majority of conversers.
It is inevitable that two speakers will at some points reach an impasse, or what feels like a dead end in a conversation, that leaves both parties irritated and unhappy. This may be because of a true disagreement, or, more likely, due to a misunderstanding in the guise of a disagreement. It cannot be expressed how important it is to put the effort into ascertaining which is the case. Finding and addressing misunderstandings is always tiring, even to the most social and experienced of ponies. It is often not clear when or where a misunderstanding lies, and misunderstandings prefer to look like true disagreements. For this reason, one should treat the situation as a disagreement, meaning one should seek to both clarify one’s own view and illuminate the other’s view. As one makes one’s case, define one’s view distinctly and precisely, giving the other the most accurate and clear understanding of one’s view as possible. Break it into graspable pieces such that the other may narrow in on where the disagreement lies. It may be the case that the other realizes there is a misunderstanding, and this is where they are most likely to spot it.
In any case, in argument or casual conversation, keep the above in mind. There is no good purpose in unkind or careless discussion, and the world may be gained through kind and thoughtful discussion. One last note is to not become too caught up in formality or try to be “excessively thoughtful”. Mistakes happen, and people learn from them. Let experience hone your words, not an unchecked desire for perfection.
This is my first shot at writing an entry. I debated within myself how to present it, with the alternative form being a careful analysis of a very illustrative personal experience. I still believe the story is worth telling and may be more effective than a simple wall of words, so I might save it for a sort of sequel entry to this one. Until then, I hope my wall of words has been clear and helpful for any who read it.
One of my most instinctive fears in being misunderstood, and others (or myself) suffering as a result. I spent the majority of my life internalizing my feelings and words, building a dense mass of gray emotion inside me. At times it felt heavy, and most often it felt numb or null. But as little bits of the mass broke off, it would react and burn in anger or sadness. I realized the toll it took on my life and decided that I had to speak out, even if it made me uncomfortable or if I wasn’t entirely sure I believed what I was saying. It has helped dislodge a significant portion of that mass, though part of it will always remain and collect the sediment of anxiety and depression. If any of you understand that feeling, or think you may be internalizing too much, I hope you will speak to someone. Communication is a crucial part of a healthy mind.
PS: I am currently too tired too proofread this beyond simply checking for misspellings and obvious grammatical errors.