07 October, 2009

Incomplete Communications

Several years back, my partner and I took a vacation with another couple who were good friends of ours.  However, this wasn’t the normal vacation we like to take (snorkeling at some pristine beach in the Caribbean), but it instead involved a lot of time together in the car as we toured the Northwestern parts of Nevada and California.  As we planned our trip and determined the places where we wanted to go, I could hear the voice of my mother in my head saying, “When you believe that you want to marry someone, take a long trip in the car together. That will test your compatibility.”

Before I tell you the rest of the story, let me ask you, “Have you ever had an incomplete communication with someone?”  What I mean by incomplete communication is:
a) the other person didn’t understand what you said
b) the other person didn’t receive your communication
c) you didn’t understand what was being said to you
d) you didn’t receive the other person’s communication    or
e) there was something that should have been said but never was.

These are all examples of communication that was left incomplete.

When an incomplete communication is in your space, it will come up for you every time you are around that other person.  It seems like it becomes a plaque of sorts because it doesn’t appear to diminish with the passing of time.  Instead, it just seems to drive a divide between you and the other person – a divide that after enough time has passed will seem insurmountable.  In fact, if enough time has passed, you’ll find yourself getting really reasonable about not completing an incomplete communication with justifications like, “I don’t need to bring up that old thing.  That happened a long time ago.” or “That’s water under the bridge.”

Unfortunately, incomplete communications of any kind will serve only to diminish the affinity that you can have for another or the affinity that he could have for you.  And truthfully, that’s one of the primary reasons you will want to resolve any communications that are incomplete.  The completion of an incomplete communication will immediately release the negative feelings that you have about that person.  It will open your heart to have more affinity for that person and it will provide you with peace of mind – all good reasons to complete your past incomplete communications.

One thing to remember though is that just because something was left incomplete for you does not necessarily mean that it is also incomplete for the other person.  It’s best not to project your beliefs or feelings onto the other person.  Simply complete with that person what was left as incomplete for you.  Then, your work is done.  If that thing was also incomplete for the other person, through your boldness and generosity of completing that thing, you will be giving the other an opening that he or she may not have had before.  That could be a gift of grace that will provide the other person with peace of mind and greater affinity.

So, back to my story, since I don’t enjoy traveling in a car for any more than 4 hours to reach a destination, I hadn’t, as an adult, had a lot of travel experience of being in a car and having to be responsible.  Boy was I in for a big awakening!  The big day came and we met at the airport to fly across the country from Maryland to California where we would pick up our rental car and begin our long awaited vacation together.

The first couple of days were great and we really enjoyed the camaraderie with one another.  After that, things went downhill quickly!  We couldn’t get the temperature in the car adjusted to everyone’s liking.  The music, too, was an issue of personal taste with little compromise.  Sometimes, the individuals who were driving would become agitated with the heavy traffic or his or her loss for direction.

After that, everything seemed to become a challenge: Finding a restaurant that we could all agree on; agreeing on what sites we would see that day; finding compatible entertainment at night to suit everyone’s tastes; and even seemingly unfairness in our accommodations – all of which were spoken of but never did the four of us just sit down and hash out our differences.  Not once did any of us take responsibility for the situation.  And never did anyone apologize for their words spoken out of anger or upset.

It was almost a year after our trip that I had finally had enough of these issues eating away at me.  I had never enjoyed a vacation any less than that one and I was stubbornly holding on to all of the wrongs I felt were done to me.  But, I couldn’t stand not having peace in my life.  I didn’t like the anger and the upset eating away at me.  So I picked up the phone and called my friend with whom I felt there was a communication left incomplete.

In our phone call, I took full responsibility for the way things went.  [Please note that when I say "I took full responsibility" I don't mean to imply that I took all of the blame.  Instead, I mean that I was declaring myself as being the one who would be responsible, or “at cause”, for how this matter would turn out.]  I took responsibility for how I had acted immaturely and for my words and actions which were not in line with who I say I am.  I told my friend how much I loved her and I told her what she meant to me.  I told her that I wasn’t going to tolerate anything that separated us like that again.  She said what she said and we ended the call.  Peace was present for me and my affinity for my friend was restored.

Sometimes it takes great courage or boldness to initiate this type of communication.  But the instant reward of completing something that was left incomplete for you and is standing in the way of you having a fully loving relationship with someone cannot be tolerated.  It doesn’t matter if it’s your boss, a coworker, a family member, a partner, or a friend.  The separation caused by something left incomplete should never be tolerated under any circumstances.

If you have an issue that has been left incomplete with someone in your life, I challenge you today to pick up the phone or drive to see that person and clean up your mess!  The rewards that you will reap are well worth it.

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