Cauldron to Kitchen

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Are We Talking or Listening?

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hyphae1.jpgWe all know people who talk so much that they don’t seem to take any time to draw a breath. I seem to know a lot of people like that, but perhaps it is cultural. I live outside the New York metropolitan area. People here are - by my standards – high strung. If I want to be part of any conversation, I have to do something that was considered rude when I was growing up: I have to interrupt and talk louder than the person next to me. Not everyone I know is like that, but at least half of my friends are “talkers.” I don’t know the correlation between word count and extroversion, but I suspect its on the positive scale. Certainly the sheer noisiness of all that talking can be exhausting for a confirmed introvert like myself.

In stark contrast stands the laconic silence and one word answers of some of my mother’s childhood friends. Any attempt at conversation on my part - including asking questions - is likely to leave me feeling like I’m babbling. In neither case do I feel like I’m communicating. Talking and communicating aren’t the same thing. Communication requires some sort of mutual exchange. But sometimes I feel like there is more communication in the brief email messages my boss and I send each other, than with the people I speak with face to face.

And then there is the wordless communication of a caress, a smile, a purr, a nuzzle, and eye contact. No words or text are needed to let me know that I am loved by my husband or my furry friends. Nor should the communication of actions be forgotten. What people do can communicate far more accurately than what they say, although the speaker may not be conveying what they imagine they are!

The development of language in infancy is critical to our well being. Without this skill, we don’t develop abstract thinking, which limits our ability to think logically and do mathematics. And the first and best way to begin language development is to respond to your baby’s cry, all while talking and letting her see your facial expression. The best communication happens when all these methods are engaged.

We are hardwired for communication, born with miles of branching dendrites that connect our brain cells, one to the others. And while there are certainly windows of development where it is easier to develop skills, even in adulthood, learning a new language makes the brain grow. and the more effort, the more growth.

Communication requires attention. I am surrounded by people who have ADD/ADHD. They often believe they have communicated when what they have actually been doing is talking. Rushing from one word to next, my dear ones are sure that they have either completely grasped what I’m trying to say, or that they have said what I needed to know. A request for clarification, or to slow down and listen, may be met with angry frustration. To have this happen constantly is to start to doubt the value of one’s attempts, and even one’s person.

Like the dendrites in our brains, there are other webs of communication. Mycelium are the fungal strands of mushrooms that can travel for miles under the earth. They form relationships with plants - called mycorrhizaswhich not only benefits both life forms,but allow plants to communicate with each other. All plants grow better when they have this network.

The flow of communication is critical for a good life. We cannot meet our needs without each other, and without communication, we cannot know what these needs are. Take the time and attention to do the job right.

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Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.


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