If you can’t explain something in simple terms, you don’t understand it

 

If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it.

attributed to Richard Feynman or Albert Einstein

I try to write very simply here, and it’s for a couple of different reasons:

It’s easier to read and understand.

Why not make it as easy to understand as possible? If I want what I write to be useful for the recipient, I want it to be as clear, simple, and understandable as possible.

It shows me how well I understand it.

If I start a post and it doesn’t flow or is easily written, I usually set it aside, let it simmer somewhere in me (without paying much or any attention to it), and return to it another day. Most often, it is then much easier to write and it flows better.

There is another reason why I chose to use a simple language. It’s because I have seen others, especially in academia, who use an overly complicated and fancy-sounding language. And more often than not, they do it – either intentionally or unintentionally – to mask a lack of clarity and poor understanding from their side. Some also do it to appear more impressive and mask a lack of self-esteem. I don’t want to play that game.

I want to understand and come from some clarity. And I want to use the writing process to find a bit more clarity.

Pitfalls of parts language

 

I sometimes share little things I notice in me that are at the polar opposite end of the big picture situation. It feels honest, raw, and vulnerable. It feels deeply human to me, and I think that’s why I sometimes am attracted to it.

For instance, I may deeply love someone, and sometimes other things come up as it does for all of us. And to me, it feels good to share. It feels transparent, human, vulnerable. It can deepen a sense of intimacy.

It can also backfire, as I have experienced a few times. (I really wish to learn.) And this can especially happen if the person I am talking with is less familiar or comfortable with parts language.

For instance, a girlfriend some years ago was about to visit my parents. We had it all planned with dates and everything else and it felt deeply good and right to me. Unfortunately, in a moment of wanting to be extra transparent, I shared with her that a part of me felt nervous or scared about her visiting my parents. It triggered a deep wound in her (so it seems), she was convinced I didn’t want her to visit my parents, and she canceled her trip and told her friends and family that I didn’t want her to visit my parents. Nothing I said seemed to have an impact.

In hindsight, I see that I was too casual about how I said it. I was used to talking with people familiar with parts language, so I didn’t consider how people who were less familiar with it could take it. In this situation, it would probably have been better to not say it. And I also see that I assumed she knew how much it meant for me that she was coming, how much I genuinely looked forward to it, and how deeply right it felt. If I had said that explicitly first, that could also have prevented her reaction.

I had said all of those things to her in other situations, but not in this one. And that may have made all the difference. I realize that when these things are said in separate situations, the person may think I have changed my mind. And if they are said together, it’s easier for the person to see that they do indeed go together. They are both there. One is the big picture. (In this case, that it felt deeply right for her to meet my parents.) The other is a small part of me that sits on the other end of the polarity. (In this case, some nervousness.)  And that is how it is for all of us about just about anything, if we really look.

The yin-yang symbol reflects this. There may be one big picture and overriding orientation, for instance, something feels deeply right. And within that, there are small parts of us that are scared. It’s good to acknowledge both.

In hindsight, I also see that if I could have shared the reason a small part of me felt nervous: She and my family both meant a lot to me, and I really wanted them to like each other and get along well. I realize that she may have had another story about this nervousness. (One I still don’t know what was.)

As a friend said, we never know what we will do or say that will trigger deep wounds in someone else. That’s why people who are skillful communicators are extra conscious to frame things so the right meaning is more likely to get across. (Even then, there are no guarantees.)

Taking a step back or two steps forward

 

In my communications with others, I sometimes notice a choice between taking a step back or two steps forwards.

I can chose to not say what is alive for me, to hold back, and perhaps tell myself I am acting out of integrity by not expressing it. Sometimes, this may be appropriate.

But not if I wish a more alive, open and trusting connection with the other person.

In that case, I can chose to go two steps forward, to reveal myself more, to bring what’s already here more consciously into the relationship, and then navigate this new terrain from a deeper sense of honesty, and of trust in the process.

Being clear on my most basic desires – such as  a desire for connection – serves as a guide for me here.

The first choice can lead to stagnation. The second to a sense of freedom, trust, and aliveness.

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Mental field and communication

 

In exploring the mental field, I notice a few things related to language and communication…

The mental field mimic each of the other fields. It mimics sight (images), sound, taste, smell, sensation, and even itself. (For instance when there is a memory of a previous thought.)

The mental field labels and interpret what is going on in the other fields. There is a sound, then an image of a bird placed on that sound. (In the area of space where that sound seems to come from.) A smell, and an image of a possible source and further associations.

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Aspects of communication

 

An interesting point from Indistinct Union:

All writing is arrogance….of a sort. To say anything, however humble, is to assume one has something to say that has some validity, that someone will find useful. I put these thoughts on the World Wide Web. That’s arrogance.

It may be true, but some other things about writing and communicating – whether with others or myself – are also true…

Independent of anything else happening, when I communicate with myself or others…

  • It helps me clarify certain views and perspectives I am already familiar with
  • It helps me explore a certain area I am already familiar with, but in more depth
  • I can move beyond what I am familiar with, in the same general direction, in a more deliberate and systematic way
  • I sometimes surprise myself by coming up with something different from what I expected or something beyond what I was familiar with
  • I can actively take on, explore, and find the validity in views and perspectives I am less familiar with, including those very different from or opposite to my habitual perspectives. In this way, I move outside of what I am familiar with, it helps me understand better where others are coming from, and I also become more familiar with other sides of myself and the human experience
  • I can explore areas that are new or unfamiliar to me and learn something about them
  • By writing something down, I can more easily let go of it. I don’t need to try to remember it anymore, and can move on.

Among these, I see that all happen for me, and all have their own value.

If something is happening in the world, and I bring up something that can be a catalyst for change, I usually go with what is already familiar to me and habitual views (respect for life, widening circles of care, meeting people where they are, and so on).

If I work on myself, I often explore views and areas different from what I am used to, through for instance The Work or Voice Dialog or something similar. And this latter feeds back to the first since it helps me loosen my grip on certain views, understand better where others are coming from, and see how we are all in the same boat.

(As I write this, I see how certain KW flavored integralists will see this as green and holistic and all the things they don’t like very much, but that is not all there is to it. For instance, meeting people where they are at and speaking a language they understand also – obviously – means meeting people at red with red/amber means when necessary, including using force.)

As a receiver of what someone else communicates….

  • In general, whatever is communicated mirrors something in myself and helps me notice it. I find in myself what I see out there… views, experiences, qualities and more.
  • It helps me clarify, explore and move beyond views and areas I am already familiar with.
  • It helps me become familiar with views and areas unfamiliar to me, which helps me find it in myself and also understand better where others are coming from. We all are familiar with views and areas unfamiliar to someone else, so by sharing this inevitably happens.
  • It can help me explore views coming up in response to the view expressed. What I hear or see may trigger something in me in response, which helps me clarify and become familiar with it, and act on it as well in some situations.

So wherever it comes from, it can be of benefit of the receiver. In that sense, any sharing of views, perspectives, information, opinions, experiences and so on is an act of generosity. It may mirror something in the receiver, and may also trigger something different in response.

Does all of this automatically happen. Maybe yes and no. It may well be that most or all of this inevitably happens, and it then becomes an invitation that is consciously accepted and acted on or not. And for some, it is an active and conscious practice to work with it this way.