Saturday, September 25, 2010

Conveying Meaning Through Language and Metaphor

There are two primary reasons for this posting. 
1. As mentioned previously, there are both significant differences and slight nuances between cultures, including the seemingly slight cultural differences found in almost any community in the industrialized world.
2. Communicating with even your own children, may not be as simple as some might believe.  In a real sense, children often, if not usually, have a culture unique from their parents.

Many years ago while supervision child protection, I learned to communicate with parents in words and metaphor familiar to them.  For example: I remember working with a family who many would consider backwards; but who were familiar with animals and the difficulties of raising and even keeping certain kinds of animals alive.  When I really needed to communicate an important point, I made special effort to use words which they were familiar with and used examples which they could most easily relate to. 
Another family I worked with had a son who had done some very inappropriate things.  At first there was a lack of understanding of the severity; but because they were the same religion as I, without mentioning religion, I was able to use vocabulary which would convey the powerful and urgent message I needed them to understand.
In contrast, there was a worker on the team who would commonly use vocabulary with children that children did not understand.

When communicating with your children, or your spouse, use words and metaphors which they will easily understand; however before you do this, you must listen to them and know them well enough to know and understand their language, their interests and passions, and their culture.

"Real listening shows respect. It creates trust. As we listen, we not only gain understanding, we also create the environment to be understood. And when both people understand both perspectives, instead of being on opposite sides of the table looking across at each other, we find ourselves on the same side looking at solutions together". Stephen R. Covey

This does not mean we should never use words which stretch our children's vocabulary.  We need to educate and help our children understand the world; however in times when we need to communicate important principles or meaning, we must do it in a way they will best understand.

No comments: