Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

A key communication error

MY WORKING LIFE flashed before my eyes. For some unknown reason, I couldn’t log on to my computer, which refused to accept my security password despite repeated attempts. To make matters worse, I learned that the online backup I thought I had instituted had in fact not been taking place. Two years’ worth of work was out of reach; I panicked.

The nice young woman at the tech support center I visited wasn’t immediately reassuring to someone who knows just enough about computers to be dangerous. Depending on the level of my security, she said, it may be impossible to retrieve all those files. Yikes.

Fortunately, things weren’t so bad. She ran some kind of insider program and there was my computer home screen again. I gave her a big air hug and left promising to sort out my backup protection to avoid ever having to sweat things out like that again.

My relief didn’t last long. Back home, I fired up my PC and went online to check my email. Only I couldn’t log in. Once again, I got a message telling me my password was not recognized. Oh no, had I been hacked? I tried my password again a couple of times, slowly, to make sure I hadn’t mistyped anything.

And then I noticed. Two letters in my email address were not registering on the screen, even when I typed them. I hadn’t been locked out of anything; my attempts to enter crucial information simply hadn’t been registering.

Breathing a hearty sigh of relief, I plugged an old external keyboard into my laptop as a work-round while waiting for a replacement keyboard to arrive. And I made a mental note to remember that failure to connect may not be as catastrophic as it first seems; you might just need to check you’re getting through.

This is as true for communicating with people as it is when you are communicating with technology. Just because you think you are punching the right keys, there is no guarantee that information is registering. The answer isn’t to keep banging away in the same manner, only with increasing pressure—though that’s what we can do sometimes. Ever noticed how if you are trying to talk to someone who doesn’t know your language, you can find yourself speaking ever more LOUDLY and ever more s-l-o-w-l-y?

When someone doesn’t get what we’re saying, we can become irritated: there must be something wrong with them. But if something is not “going in” when you are communicating with someone, it may not be that they have locked you out. It may be that you’re not using all the keys you need to; like the letters on my keyboard, some of the words you are using may not be going in.

This is never truer than in marriage, where words can have very different meanings because of life experiences. For someone with a happy childhood, “family dinners” may be an appealing prospect; for someone who experienced trauma as a child, the phrase could fill them with dread.

Marcia and I are aware of this tendency because, as a British-American couple, we are—as Winston Churchill once observed of our two homelands, “divided by a common language.” Is that thing at the back of our car a “trunk” or a “boot”? Still, that doesn’t stop us from tripping up from time to time. I’m just trying to remember from now on that those missteps don’t have to point to a major internal problem, just a failure of input.

Photo: http://www.freepik.com/photos/technology”>Technology photo created by wirestock – http://www.freepik.com

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