Community and Communication… Creating Common Ground

I've been doing a lot of pondering about what community means, how it works (and doesn't work), and what's required to create workable community. And, in musing on the various permutations of this subject, I've come to the conclusion that the real strength in any given community lies in its ability to communicate. Both the words "community" (a group of people or society as a whole) and "communicate" (to make known or express oneself in such a way that one is readily and clearly understood) stem from the Latin "communis" which means "common," which includes such definitions as "shared by all alike," "pertaining to the community as a whole" and "prevalent or general." Thus, consider that our communication is the common ground of our community; it is the place in which we meet, exchange and grow.

Whether the community is a couple, a family, a classroom, an organization, business or nation; if our communication is healthy and clear, our community is thriving.

The reason this all came up is that I've witnessed some communications in my own extended family that have been, in my experience, challenging and, truth be told, even painful. And… I've held my tongue because I didn't want to make waves. I'm not saying that's the best strategy… it's been my safe (safe equaling sedative) strategy, so I don't have to deal with the various "cans of worms" (my interpretation) I see sitting on the table. However, the problem in that strategy is that it also leaves a great big pink elephant sitting on the table amidst those cans, very likely to be too heavy for the table to withstand the pressure and, thus, break under the weight of the unspoken.

I have wrestled with my conscience about how much to say about all of this, but have come to the conclusion that, as the "Communications Manager" for our family, it is my duty to step out of my "safety zone," speak my truth and open the floor for what I hope will be deeper dialogue.

With that, I offer an excerpt from a letter I recently sent to my family (names and specific detailes removed) in the hopes that it encourages some of you who wrestle with the communications in your family, since this is where it all begins, and to learn the tools that can help in beginning to open, and even repair, the relationships that are the most critical ones we have.

Dear family-

I notice how easy it for me (as a human being) to be attached to a position of "being right" about many issues, especially with all that is happening in the world, locally and globally. What I have come to experience and trust, however, is that when I am attached, I diminish my ability to consider other points of view with an open mind and heart. This isn't to say that it's not important to have convictions and values, or to set clear boundaries on what is acceptable or not. I also know that I don't often do as good a job as I intend (it's a work in progress), but I do believe it is vitally important to listen- really listen, with interest and curiosity- to what others have to say to the best of my ability in any given moment. 

I give myself the experience that I hear a lot of “being right” and attachment to positions in the exchanges between some of our family members. All I can say is, as challenging as it can be sometimes, I've experienced that, when I allow myself to loosen the grip of my attachment to my position, I am more open to hearing ideas and solutions that are actually more beneficial for the greater good, even if I thought I had the best interest of the greater good in mind all along. In other words, I consider that the best solutions usually arise from humble and open-hearted dialogue. 

What this boils down to is an invitation to all of us (myself included) – whether or not we've been in the middle of these conversations or sitting on the sidelines patiently watching – to...

… speak and act with as much compassion, humility and love as possible. 

… notice our internal reactions to what others say or write or do and "be with" them for a moment… or a day (there is nothing so urgently at risk here which can't benefit from a "cooling off" period if we're upset). 

… consider our words and where they're coming from before we speak or hit the "send" button. 

… remember that we are all, whether we like it or not, in this family with each other as long as we are on this planet and able to enjoy our connections and this beautiful land which [my grandparents] left us to steward.

In my estimation, we are a brilliant, passionate, loving bunch… often prone to reactivity, righteousness and stubbornness. That is what makes [us] so admirable most of the time and such a pain in the ass on occasion.

I also want to say that I know that what I'm saying here doesn't come close to addressing some of our deep-seated issues and histories... I believe that none of us is immune to some shadows or incompletions in our relationships with each other. What I am saying, though, is that, perhaps- just perhaps- if we have the courage to begin to open the closet with tenderness, care and an intention for healing and restoration of love, then we have a golden opportunity to raise the bar of who we are as a family even higher than it already is.

Finally… I am also glad to see more of us in my generation taking a greater interest in the maintenance of this land, honoring and wanting to learn from the wisdom and know-how [our predecessors] have been carrying since grandpa and grandma died. In my humble opinion, we have an opportunity here to learn what must be learned about lakes and dams, meadows and barns, trails and orchards and much more... and we must seize it with care, commitment to service, and innovation. This land is our greatest legacy and the glue which holds this family together. It is an honor to begin to learn how to care for it, and I humbly admit that, although I have not done as good a job as I should have thus far, I am committed to learning and executing the tasks which need to be implemented to the best of my ability.

All in all, my request is that we bring to our family table the following... action with care, urgency with thoughtfulness, the good of all held in as much esteem as our personal preferences, and love over positions.

I love you all and am committed to listening, speaking and participating with as much deliberateness, love and care as possible. You can always count on me to "step away" if I need to ruminate or calm down for a moment and to "dive in" when necessary. Despite, and because of, our differences and similarities, I love this family - and this land - more than I can say.

With love and blessings to each and every one of you,

Erin

I wish you a most beautiful rest of this glorious month of June in whatever communities you participate, and look forward to reading your comments!