As We Move Forward: How’s Our Communication?

Telephone

There is an old party game that many of us have probably played. It is called Telephone. Participants sit in a circle. Someone whispers a phrase to the person next to them. This continues until the last person says out loud what he heard. I have played this game several times. I have never seen a time when the final message bears any resemblance to the original message. This activity only serves to illustrate how difficult it is to communicate exactly what we intend to be certain is understood by the person hearing the message.

It is an established fact that eyewitness accounts of the same event can vary widely. This is the major reason witnesses to a major event such as a crime or an accident are interviewed separately. It is also why legal proceedings require the testimony of two or more witnesses. It is not necessarily that people do not tell the truth in these circumstances. It is just that our minds see and hear things based on what we expect to.

Parents know this phenomenon. Children often act differently than we think they will. When we ask them, they will often have a different version of what we told them. This is one reason it is important to be as precise and consistent as we can be in all our communication. Most of the time our communication works well. We know less of what is expected of us, and we can complete our communication with others easily and with mutually satisfying results.

It is unusual or unexpected situations that put our communication skills to the test. Situations like moving to a new place, beginning a new job or having a child can put stress on our communication. Even in these situations, we have enough in common with the people in our relationships to get our thoughts and feelings across fairly well.

It is in times of crisis that these breakdowns in communication can become serious. A crisis tends to confuse communication. In uncertainty, the tendency to hear what we want to hear can become overwhelming. That may be due at least in part to a real need to regain control over some part of our life.

We get frightened in a crisis, and our fear makes us less open to hearing what someone is saying, especially when that is in conflict with what we believe to be true. Social media really doesn’t help make this communication process work any better. In an environment where it is difficult to distinguish fact from opinion, it can be very difficult to honestly and openly share ideas and have a true discussion, especially where there may be differing points of view.

Communication

As we move forward, especially in times of crisis, it is helpful to consider the emotional context of our communication. If the person or persons we are communicating with seems upset or defensive, it might be good to resist the temptation to respond in an argumentative fashion and listen to what they are saying.

Since a crisis can bring out both the best and worst in us, we should be sensitive to the underlying tone. If we can remain rational and objective in our communication, and if we can keep our communication direct and concise, we can avoid the game of Telephone. We can keep the end message as clear and accurate as possible. As we move forward, let’s make that type of communication our goal and the standard.

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As We Move Forward: Responding In The Midst Of Panic

News Headlines

Most of us have lived through times of panic. Some major ones could include Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, 911. This is not an exhaustive list, but some characteristics of these and other times of panic could include a sense of total loss of control. It can also be referred to as a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or society in general. This panic can happen on a purely individual basis. Probably everyone can recall a time when they suddenly became separated from the adult they were with. It is a feeling of total panic to suddenly realize that the adult you depend on for safety and security. Thankfully, this is usually a very time-limited experience. Once we are reunited with the important adult in our life, feelings of safety and security return.

Long term panic can set in if the separation is more serious or long-lasting such as serious illness or even death. Various forms of hysterical or irrational behavior can, and often does follow losses of this type. We know that grief can be a long, complicated process. It is sometimes the case that unresolved issues surrounding this type of loss can show up in all the forms of panic involving the person experiencing the grief’s relationships. It is not unusual for people having difficulty maintaining normal healthy relationships while working through these results of panic.

Events causing panic over wider areas, like a region, a country or the world have long-lasting effects on many people over a long period of time. The Holocaust took place more than seventy years ago. Some form of response to the panic that comes from the realization that people can behave that way toward other human beings has been experienced by everyone who has visited one of the many memorials to the people who endured this suffering. Recordings have been made of interviews with survivors. The hysterical, irrational behavior of these events shapes responses to this present day.

The shootings and other acts of violent behavior being experienced in many places cause panic in all its forms. It is very common to ask after each of these events, “How do we get over this and return to normal?” There can be a sense of helplessness and hopelessness to these panic causing events. What is the right response? How do we keep the events of the situation from dominating every part of our lives? How and when does our life and world return to normal?

Fear

As we move forward, it is helpful to realize there will be events in our lives and our world that will lead to panic and all the behavior that comes with panic. We can help keep peoples’ responses reasonable when possible. At the very least we can try not to add to the hysterical behavior we sometimes see in others.

As we move forward, we can also listen and help others decide what is a reasonable response and how to find our way back to a normal existence after every incident of panic. There can be a great deal of satisfaction in helping with a rational, measured approach to situations causing panic. I encourage you to seek these responses and help others find them.

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As We Move Forward: Following Through

Baseball batter

Almost every sporting activity has built into it the principle of follow-through. In baseball, batters are repeatedly told to follow through on every swing and to run on every hit. If the hit is a foul ball, the runner is called back, but the impulse to run until specifically instructed to stop becomes automatic in baseball players who develop real skills as players. On defense, players are taught to run each play through to completion. The training to follow through on every play is drilled until it becomes automatic.

Football is another sport where following through is essential. Once a play is begun, both the offense and defense perform their assigned tasks until the play is complete. Many times, a majority of the players on either team have no idea how the play is going. They simply complete their responsibilities fully and completely. If any player does not follow through completely on their assigned responsibility, they are taken to task for the failure.

In school, homework is an essential part of following through. Reading and writing assignments are a regular part of learning, as essential as whatever takes place in class. Successful students tend to be the ones who follow through completely with all aspects of the process. Even high intelligence can not take the place of thorough following through.

Any creative activity like singing or playing an instrument, dancing, acting and artistic achievement to name just a few are based on the idea that to successfully accomplish any of these will require being totally committed to following through. When we watch any performance, we should be aware of the dedication and commitment to following through being demonstrated by those participating in the activity.

Following through is important in all our relationships. The total devotion parents experience the first time they hold their newborn needs to be paired with a commitment to that child during their teen years. The vows a couple makes to each other on their wedding day must be coupled with the following through required as the relationship grows over the years.

Thinking

It is exciting to experience your first day on a new job. It takes following through to do that same well day after day, year after year. Sometimes it appears following through is not always the norm in our lives and in our relationships. Think about sometimes when you have followed through. How did that affect things in your life? How about times someone has not followed through when you needed and expected it.

As we move forward, it might be helpful to remember times when people have followed through in dealing with us. What difference did that make in our lives? We may want to make a determined effort to follow through in everything we do in life. Think about how much better that will make our lives and the lives of others.

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As We Move Forward: How Do You Ask For Help?

Infant

Every one of us finds ourselves in situations where we can not do everything on our own. What we do at that moment has a great bearing on how well we are able to cope with the seemingly impossible challenges we face in our lives. Actually, asking for help starts the moment we are born. Much has been written about how traumatic it is to enter this world. The cry that either comes naturally or is prompted in every newborn infant serves multiple purposes. This action fills the baby’s lungs with air. At the same time it serves to ask everyone around for the basics of survival. The newborn infant stops crying when those around hear the call for help and make the appropriate response.

Crying continues for a while as at least one of the ways a young child asks those around for help. The temperament of the child and the responses from those in the child’s environment help determine how much of the process of asking for help consists of crying and how much takes other forms, some more verbal and some more pleasant.

We all know children who seem pleasant and polite in their basic orientation to life. Is it possible their requests for help are responded to in ways that bring satisfaction and reinforce the process of asking for help in a basically pleasant manner? Of course, no one, especially a young child, is pleasant all the time, especially in the stressful process of asking for help. As we grow into adulthood, basic patterns emerge and develop. How we go about asking for help in our relationships has a lot to do with how successfully we maintain and develop satisfying and productive relationships with others.

As adults, how we ask for help has everything to do with our starting point when we confront the need for help. Some people think only in terms of how something will affect them. When these people need help, nothing matters other than getting the help they need. They often lose sight of the effect their getting help might have on others. One of the things they might overlook is the feelings others might have in being part of their getting the help they need.

Helping

Another person might recognize their need for help and honestly and openly share that. Very often, others will respond with a willingness to help meet the need. Like so many things in life, the difference is often our point of view. We all need help at times. The difference in the willingness of others to offer us the help can be in our willingness and ability to be open with others about our need for help.

As we move forward, it can help us remember that everyone needs help at times. As we think about our willingness to help others, it can be useful to remember how it feels to have someone take our feelings into consideration when we ask them for help. May we both offer and ask for help in a spirit of always being mindful of the role of others in the process.

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As We Move Forward: Choosing Our Heroes

Hero

Who are the heroes in your life? Who do you look up to as role models for the ways you respond in various situations? Typically, our first heroes are our parents. It is amazing how each child takes for granted the belief that their particular life situation is absolutely normal. We see our parents as the absolute last word on every subject. I think most children want to grow up to be exactly like one of their parents.

This cast of heroes gradually increases as we get older and have experiences with more people. The cast of heroes can include siblings, other, usually older, children in the ever expanding world of a young child. The cast of heroes can include characters from books, movies and television as well as from real life. Children might aspire to be such things as a ballerina, a singer, a cowboy, policeman, fireman. It would be interesting to discover how many people first got the idea for their calling in life from a role model, one way of describing a hero, who played a significant role in a child’s life.

There are numerous accounts of someone like a teacher, a doctor a coach or perhaps a supervisor or boss who has served as the guide, role model, hero to give someone the vision to achieve incredible things. It is difficult to overestimate the value of this influence on the success a person is able to achieve.

Again, the question of who the heroes are in your life are presents itself. Did you reach as high as possible in choosing heroes to serve as the guiding force in your achievements? Taking a realistic look at who you have chosen as heroes and where that has gotten you can lead to a realistic appraisal of what you have accomplished so far in life.

It may be that you could have chosen loftier heroes. It is possible you might have let go of some heroes too early in life to truly benefit from their example as a guiding light in your life. Do you need to choose different heroes to guide you at this point in your life? One difficulty of growing older is that we lose some of our heroes and the source of new ones may not seem readily apparent to us.

Hero

As we move forward, it is important to examine the importance of choosing the best possible heroes in keeping the course of our lives on track. Another thing we should be aware of is that we may serve as heroes for someone else. The nature of healthy relationships requires us to keep this model of hero/role model in proper focus.

As we move forward, let us seek the best heroes possible and strive to be the best role models possible for others. Our world still needs heroes. Who are yours?

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As We Move Forward: Post-Truth

Sometimes I think I’ve heard everything. Just about that time something seems to come along that surprises me and convinces me I have not heard it all. Recently, I began reading an article that talked about the post-truth age. This refers to a tendency more to emotional responses than objective truth in discussion or debate. This is reactive rather than responsive in which my emotional response to a given situation is far more important than any facts involved.

Emotions

Social media can be viewed as presenting examples of this phenomenon. Often the emotional responses seen on social media have little if anything to do with the facts involved in a situation. One result of this reliance on emotion over fact is the reluctance to enter into a discussion because of the reality that someone will almost certainly get upset.

I value the times in my life when I have been able to debate ideas with people who hold different viewpoints than I do. I have learned some valuable lessons by having my beliefs challenged by putting them next to radically different viewpoints in an open and honest discussion.

A way to look at behavior to see if it is following the post-truth mentality is to apply this standard. I believe that each of us does the best we can in every situation, given the information we have. When I see someone acting in a way I do not understand, I ask myself what I think they are trying to accomplish. Part of that process is to try to determine what if anything might cause me to respond the way they are.

I will be the first to admit there are times I cannot envision circumstances that would cause me to respond a certain way. That awareness tells me something extreme must be going on to make someone behave a certain way. Sometimes the act of trying to understand what someone’s behavior might be saying helps me to relate to that person in a way that benefits both of us.

Fact Finding

For me, I choose not to live in a post-truth age. Emotions are an important indicator of what might be going on in someone’s life, but I would rather base my decisions as much on facts as on emotional responses. I believe the time we spend in probing for the facts in resolving issues in our relationships is valuable.

As we move forward, may we resolve to respond rather than react in relating to others. May we make the effort to understand what might be going on in someone behaving in ways we do not understand. May we take the admonition to give others the benefit of the doubt to its fullest expression.

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As We Move Forward: How We Mark Time

Clock

We mark the passage of time in interesting ways. We count birthdays and other anniversaries as milestones, often speaking of what went before and what came after a particular date. The extension of this is the way we mark significant historical dates. July 4, 1776, would be one example. What went on before that date is forever different from what has come after. It can be argued that dates such as that one really do mark a significant distinction between events before a particular date and those after.

An example of this kind of anticipation took place in 1999. The world was on the brink of a new year, a new decade, a new century as well as a new millennium. That was a time when hopes, as well as fears, were associated with this historic transition in time. As I recall, one of the most widespread fears had to do with Y2K and what might mean to computers around the world.

A number of things have changed in the past 19 years. As we pass into the third decade of the 2000s, I sense a little more than usual hope, optimism, or at least anticipation for what the coming year and decade might bring. Since we live in a time filled with uncertainty in many areas of life, there seems a reason for anticipation tinged with both apprehension and optimism. The year and the decade ahead will most certainly be filled with challenges and opportunities. This brings us back to the question of we are as of this particular milestone in time approaches, and what do you think the time ahead will mean to you?

As we move forward, where is your life in comparison to where you thought it would be a year ago, five years ago? If you are courageous enough, look back ten years or twenty, to the time we approached 2000. Where are you today compared with where you thought you would be at any or all of these milestones?

Clock

How do you feel about that? I stand amazed at where my life has gone compared to where I saw it at several of these points. I am coming every day to see how the challenges I faced earlier in life have helped prepare me for some of today’s challenges. I am reminded every day that doing the work and staying the course brings long term results we could never have anticipated.

As we move forward, we know that a new year and a new decade will provide new challenges and opportunities. While we do not know what the year ahead will bring, we know the lessons we have learned in previous years will equip us for what we will face.

As we move forward, let’s resolve to keep on doing what we need to as we stay the course.

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As We Move Forward: Back to the Future

Future

Probably everyone has seen the Back to the Future movies or at the very least knows the story. I want to focus on the concept from a slightly different perspective. I have traveled enough years into the future using the convention one day at a time model to have seen some amazing things happen.

There is probably no more profound development over this time period than the computer. How incredible is it that we have come from noisy machines that fill rooms to quiet devices that fit into one hand and allow computing, communication and information retrieval that dwarfs the capabilities of the earlier “dinosaurs.”

One of the things all movies and other attempts to look at the future have assumed is that things would be better and easier in the future. I saw a humorous post on social media recently featuring passengers on a plane twenty years ago. They were commenting on the meals that were being served and speculating on how great airplane meals would be in twenty years.

We all appreciate the incredible convenience of being able to communicate instantly with people around the world. How many of us have sat in the same room with others and interacted only with our devices or people we contacted via our devices? I appreciate my smart phone, but is it really all that I expected the future to bring?

I remember a comic strip police detective who used gadgets of the future. Their 2-way wrist TV has become a common reality. There are some tremendous applications. People separated by time and distance can seem closer with voice and video communication available to everyone.

I have to ask if we’re really better off being able to get the answer to every question of information in seconds. There is some question about our ability to retain the knowledge that is available at our fingertips. Related to this is the issue of what is real and what is fake. Social media tends to make everything we say seem as real and credible as everything anyone else says. “What is truth?” becomes a very complicated question.

Another aspect of our involvement with and our growing dependence on technology is the harsh reactions that seem to occur every time there is a problem with technology. People often act as if someone set out to deliberately sabotage them. It is difficult if not impossible to do serious problem-solving in this environment. I have been told that people in the IT field experience high stress, and I find this easy to believe.

My phone just rang, and I was reminded of another aspect of the future that did not turn out quite the way I thought it would. Lack of access to a phone is pretty much a thing of the past. I have walked several miles to find a payphone following a mechanical problem, especially during a trip. In the “past,” when the phone rang it was usually someone you knew and probably wanted to talk to. The worst scenario was usually the occasional wrong number.

Phones

I can’t begin to wrap my mind around what people are trying to with our phones these days. It doesn’t make sense to me what these people are trying to do. Is that the future we envisioned would be the result of improved telephone technology?

As we move forward, we might want to look realistically at what the future seemed to promise as compared to what it has actually delivered. The results are mixed. There is a lot that is positive. The real challenge is how we deal with the rest.

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As We Move Forward: The Real I in Team

Team

We have all heard the phrase, “There is no I in team.” We have come to understand that to refer to the ideal of a team effort reflecting the combined efforts of everyone involved and not shining the light of the accomplishments of one individual to the exclusion of others.

We don’t have to go far to envision examples of this type of thing happening. We can all picture a sports team with one outstanding player and others of average abilities. In the interest of winning, it is easy to imagine focusing the efforts of the entire team on enhancing the efforts of that one person.

There are times and circumstances when a particular person is featured. Some examples could include a soloist in a musical performance, the star in a play, or someone seeking political office. In each of these cases, there is a team, but the recognition goes to the individual being featured.

What makes these situations different than the example in the opening paragraphs is the understanding that in the latter cases, the clear intent of the team’s effort is to showcase the talents and abilities of the featured individual in each case. The other members of teams with featured individuals don’t view their efforts as being overshadowed by the performance of one person.

Let’s look at what makes the difference. Looking at situations in which we work on projects as part of a team, how can we bring our best to each situation in terms of our talents and abilities without being concerned with who might get praise or recognition for what is accomplished.

It is important to ask what makes each of us want to bring our best to a situation where we are asked to be part of a team. If we can figure that out and come up with the necessary motivation to bring our best effort to each situation, then we really are bringing the real I to each team situation.

Team

As we move forward, we can look at every situation in life and ask how we can be the best we can possibly be in and for that particular situation. We can also ask how we can encourage others to want to bring their best to each situation. Imagine if each of us is putting forth as much talent and effort as we would if were the featured soloist or star. There is virtually no limit as to what we would be able to accomplish.

As we move forward, wouldn’t it be amazing to be part of a team where each of us is bringing the best I we can be to every situation. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to be part of that effort. The real I in team is there in the form of every member, but the I in team is silent.

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As We Move Forward: Courage

Courage is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. Physical courage is bravery in the face of physical pain, hardship, death or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, discouragement, or personal loss. The classical virtue of fortitude is also translated “courage”, but includes the aspects of perseverance and patience.

Courageous

It appears that courage involves a set of circumstances where it would be reasonable to expect one type of response and action and having something else happens. Fear and anxiety are often the emotions taking place when courage is seen. There is usually some risk and or danger to be faced. The danger may be physical or emotional, but it is real nonetheless.

When thinking about courage, images come to mind of persons such as first responders or members of the military. Courage can also be found in relatively commonplace activities. Facing the start of school, especially at a new school, with different people, can be very intimidating and can call for tremendous courage.

We have heard stories of incredible acts of bravery, such as grabbing a child from the path of an oncoming vehicle. There are other situations, such as standing up to bullying of yourself or someone else requires courageous actions. One of the examples of courage in recent years that impresses me involves the police and firefighters at the Twin Towers on 911. As thousands were running from those buildings, these people ran in to help save people.

One of the more identifiable characters in literature encompassing the idea of courage would be the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. His search for courage is evident in his willingness to go to the Emerald City to see the Wizard in the hope of being given courage. His confidence in the liquid he is given to instill courage says a lot about the power of symbols in attaining courage.

How often simply acting for a higher purpose and in pursuit of a higher good has led to what would be identified as an act of courage. Courageous actions can clearly be seen as defining moments in our lives.

Heroes

As we move forward, we can look at those moments when we faced uncertainty, danger and or hostility. We can look at the decisions we made and see the outcomes of these decisions. We can also look at the lives of those close to us and see how they may be evidencing courage in the decisions they make.

A further step would be to recognize and encourage others as they make courageous decisions in their lives. Most everyone appreciates this kind of recognition. Recognizing and encouraging. Acts of courage can have a positive impact on our lives, the lives of others and ultimately on our world.

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