"People. Brilliant creatures who at a very high rate, predictably, are incomprehensible to each other," said writer Marilynne Robinson in a New York Times Magazine interview Sunday.
If your work is communication, your work is to help people understand one another. Which means, Robinson implies, helping understand disappointment.
If what people want is to be formally in society, to have status, to have loving relationships, houseplants that don't die, the failure rate is phenomenal. … Excellent people well-meaning people, their lives do not yield what they hoped. You know? This doesn't diminish, at all, the fact that their dignity is intact. But their grief …
Interviewer Wyatt Watson finished her sentence: "Is enormous."
Watson seemed discouraged by Robinson's view of the complexity and difficulty of communition, and asked Robinson, "So what are we doing when we're having a conversation?"
"Well, I think it's the attempt to cross. We are, paradoxically, given everything I just said, dependent on other people for our self-definition. I look at you, I see comprehension or question. I'm continuously learning from you."
Robinson also said something unrelated to communication that rung my bell as true. "I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear. What it comes down to—and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently—is that fear is an excuse. 'I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn't.' … Fear has, in this moment, a respectability I've never seen in my life."
I guess what I'm saying is, read this article; it's full of ideas for communicators (and communicatees!).