Western civilisation has lost something very valuable from the village life, and that is our daily social interaction, face to face, where every malady and experience was discussed and learnt from. The art of story-telling involved sharing experiences that meant strategies could be incorporated to reduce risk and prolong life.
Face to face communication
The value of a personal interaction in comparison to the written word (Facebook, Google) is that the latter is lacking in an individual response, designed by a compassionate listening service which we instinctively give each other. A line of questioning organically travels an unplanned path through-out a conversation until relief or answers are found that feel right. This is the intrinsic value of social interaction and why living predominantly within a digital social world leaves gaps or a stronger sense of isolation. Emojies are used to convey feeling in an attempt to fill these gaps, but don’t always work. The garden of friendship is nurtured when we are together, talking, laughing and giving time to each other. Misunderstandings are immediately open to explanation, where-as the written words may be stewed upon and analysed for days without relief.
When children are part of a conversation and their eyes wander, or they interrupt you, they are quickly pulled back to the conversation by parents who are trying to teach good listening skills. Empathy and compassion are taught by parents who show by example when they listen attentively to their child’s woes. Removing ourselves from opportunities for social interaction interferes with an aspect of our humanity that begins in childhood: the aspect of compassionate communication and active listening.
‘Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love.’ Stevie Wonder
In the village story-telling was started from the earliest stages of our lives. We were given stories about what happened to someone when they ate a certain berry: they experienced pain and vomiting, and then died. This story was invaluable because it contained a message of survival. While our civilisation has evolved far beyond this simple version of story-telling, the value of communication is still just as relevant and why our lives are happier when we spend time together. Almost all our choices are impacted by recommendations, stories of personal experience, or passing on information which is all taken into consideration when decisions are being made.
‘Story-telling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is’ Tim O’Brien
When opportunities for personal, face to face communication are avoided or limited the well-being of the person or group are impacted. Depression, sadness and loneliness are side effects, but decision making is also severely impacted. Being unable to make a good decision can create inner turbulence and an inability to act. We are social, interactive creatures and we need each other. It is not a sign of weakness that we need to talk about our issues and work our pathways out together.
The more we talk and attempt to understand each other, the more we grow our own sense of compassion for others. The opposite of compassion is judgement. Critical judgement impairs our ability to be fully supportive, understanding and accepting of others.
It is easier to be critical as an observer from afar when our opinions are not being heard or seen, but maybe your comments will be heard by others and reduce their ability to be compassionate or understanding as well. It may not be that you fully understand and therefore feel compassion for someone until you have heard their full story, face to face.
As we care for others who are ill, we can help support their choices and be more understanding when we listen to their whole story.
‘Compassionate listening is to help the other side suffer less. If we realize that other people are the same people as we are, we are no longer angry at them.’
Thich Nhat Hanh
(C) August 2017