The Perils of Communication

This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website:

CHITCHAT:  My Upcoming Lecture: “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement,” is on May 12, 2017, 1-3pm, Diablo Valley College (Pleasant Hill Campus), 321 Golf Club Rd, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523, (925) 685-1230 (NOTE: advance reservation required)

Now, on to my blog:

Man talking on canBeing an effective communicator requires talent.  Engaging others with our message and receiving theirs is fraught with danger: misunderstandings, mixed signals, confusion, and all sorts of other roadblocks from differences in age, sex, culture, language, education, etc.  However, communicate we must if we’re going to interact with other humans and depend on each other to get along.  So, how do we do it effectively?

That is a massive task, but with practice, we can all master it. First, let’s discuss what communication is. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary offers this definition:  “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.”

Communication methods can be verbal such as words, grunts, and other sounds; visual such as body language and facial expressions; and tactile such as a handshake or a hand brushing an arm or grabbing a shoulder.  Babies make their needs known by communicating with cries, smiles, etc.  We become more sophisticated in our communication methods as we age.

There are many subtleties to communication.  It can be controlling, manipulative, friendly, warm, cold, straight forward, duplicitous, honest, conniving, and on and on.  Different styles and personalities dictate the tone of the communication.

Remember, communication is not all about you.  It is not just a one-sided “sending” of information significant to the sender.  It also involves “receiving” of information significant to the other person in the interaction.  Finally, a switching of roles occurs with the original sender becoming the receiver and the original receiver becoming the sender. This reversal occurs over and over throughout the exchange at a rapid speed.

Not only must the parties involved be able to switch from send mode to receive mode quickly, they must also be able to interpret meaning. We practice this as children and hopefully perfect it by adulthood.  However, not everyone masters the lessons so well.  If you fall into that category, watch how effective communicators do it and try out their techniques.  They may feel strange at first, but it will get easier with practice.

Effective communication requires an awareness of goals–what the parties want from the interchange. Do you strive to win favor; do you want an extension of good will; do you simply want to experience the good feelings you get from talking to a friend?  Be careful that your approach matches what you hope to gain.  If not, then you are wasting your time and effort.

An acquaintance and I recently discussed how valuable laughter is in communication.  Including humor and creating an opportunity for laughter usually yields much more than aggression does.  There’s an old proverb to the point: “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  When attempting to communicate, lighten up and make the exchange pleasant and even fun, no matter the subject matter.  It can be done and is often significantly more effective.  Just give it a try.


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Photo on Visual Hunt (modified by user)


Filed under active seniors, Baby boomers, gerontology, health and wellness, healthy aging, longevity, reinvention, retirement, seniors, successful aging, wellness

5 responses to “The Perils of Communication

  1. as always, a lovely thoughtful post! so much positive encouragement – which is essential as communication can be frustrating, particularly when the partner is not an especially talented communicator…

    • Hi Daal, I think reticent types gravitate to more communicative types. Imagine how boring it would be if neither partner was a good communicator; they’d live pretty much in silence. Also, if communication is uncomfortable for someone, it eases the discomfort to have another to do it for you.

      • there are also people who aren’t so much ‘quiet’ as they tend to be sloppy with their words & with listening – those people need patience & a sense of humor too…

  2. Roger Trammell

    Laughter is a great way to break the ice in an otherwise stressful communication, LGG. You hit it spot-on.

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