In last month’s article, I wrote about how commonality promotes peace, justice, and equality, yet, what I failed to focus due to space constraints was how the “art of communication” was so important to that dialogue.

Some people will say that there are eight barriers of communication:

  • Physical barriers that we erect to keep others out.
  • Perceptual barriers those that we erect by thinking that the other person we are trying to connect with doesn’t understand us.
  • Emotional baggage all that stuff you have carried for a life time.
  • Cultural barriers losing the perception of the common ground or fearing the common ground.
  • Language barriers either how we articulate things based on differences of language or regions.
  • Gender barriers how we communicate and express ourselves differently.
  • Generational barriers how we communicate with our youth and our elders.
  • Interpersonal barriers which prevent us from being heard and hearing the other.

I think there is a ninth barrier to communication. The ninth barrier to communication is expectation, misperception, and judgment. Expectation, misperception, and judgment are often the barriers that gets us in the most trouble. We often suffer because our communication with others is difficult. We suffer because we have lost our ability to understand each other.

When a child begins to develop and grow from infancy, we have an expectation that he or she will communicate a certain way. We impose this view on the child throughout his or her early education. We misperceive that child and expect and force this child to learn in a particular way so that she or he can be like everyone else and conform. We judge this child if he or she does not conform and the child learns to distrust.

What we fail to realize is that like this child, we are all very different people. Some of us are auditory, some of us are visualists, and some of us process information through our senses. Who we are as people, how we receive information, and what we have endured in our lives colors how we communicate with each other.

When we ingest toxic information from those around us or by what we watch or read or when we start a conversation with someone else is toxic, that information, anger, or frustration brings toxins into your mind and body.

If we are communicating and no one is listening then we are not communicating effectively and we suffer. When we suffer we often lash out.

Buddhist believe that suffering can be brought by “wrong speech”, speech that contains unkind, untruthful or violent words while “loving speech”, that is speaking the truth in such a way that another person can accept it with mindfulness and compassion can open the door to reconciliation and peace. When we believe and listen compassionately to one another even in the most challenging of situations we break down these barriers to communication that we have created.

“Our communication is what we put into the world and what remains after we have left it. In this way our communication is our karma.” – Thicht Nhat Hanh

It is this diversity of who we are that can allow us to our communication with each other to grow exponentially, for when, we truly understand the other can we determine how to give the other what the other needs and wants. By honoring our true selves can we truly establish our most rewarding connections to each other.

So in this New Year please join me in a new intention for our community, let us learn to speak in a different way to each other. May we be open and truthful, may we be kind, may we be harmonious, and may we be purposeful in our interactions with each other. Let us think about why a person may be angry or frustrated and not react with our own anger and frustration. Let us show compassion. Let us not sow the seeds of fear, anger, hatred, or violence against each other but learn to communicate better in the face of our differences. Let us embrace our differences and strive to find the love and openness we can possess with each other so that we can make a positive difference for our children and for our universe.