Chapter 1 from The Secret of Communication
Everyone Craves Authentic Communication
The desire for live communication is at the top of the hierarchy of human needs yet there are huge dilemmas such as whether to be tough, sensitive or both and when? The ability to communicate, as well as the opportunity to use, it is a gift from the Creator. Many people are convinced they can never have a lasting relationship in their life. Even those people can have a successful relationship once they set aside their fears and ignore their past failures. It’s all about finding agreements; if both parties will communicate on the issue until the other has heard and understands, they will find agreement is possible. The other divine gift we all share is a free will that allows us to make the choices of how and what to communicate. Those are the decisions that sometimes have irrevocable effects upon our personal destiny. Not communicating is also a decision, which of itself all too frequently creates traceably damaging effects.
As a young man I had a terrible time; I couldn’t talk to my parents, neighbors, peers, and of course I got tongue tied every time I tried to talk to the opposite sex! I would get fidgety and nervous and my palms would get sweaty. I didn’t know what or how to communicate. I had a lot of problems growing up, forgot to do my chores too much, would lie to cover up that I hadn’t done them, and then get in trouble for lying too. School and activities didn’t come easy for me. I hated studying and as a result barely got passing grades except for a few subjects that came naturally to me. In all, my pre-college years were not a happy time. The real source of my problems was not realizing that my difficulties and failures were all due to the fact that I just did not know what or how to communicate. Worst of all it was years before I realized my problems were caused by my lack of ability to communicate.
Dad died in the room next to mine late in the afternoon on September 12, 1950. For several hours after finding him I sat on the edge of my own bed weeping uncontrollably, and I cried out over and over “Why, why, why?” My mother never mentioned my crying but it must have interrupted her grieving. That morning I had visited him while he was regaining his strength from the mysterious weakness that had hit him earlier that weekend while we at the family cabin on the east shore of Loon Lake, NY. He decided to cut our stay short and even more surprising he had our mother drive the car the two hours to home.
During our bedside visit the next morning he and I talked on a whole new level. We had never before been so close. I was amazed at his warmth towards me and his sincere deep interest in the homemade gravity powered race car I was about to try it out on a nearby hilly street for the first time. It was a crudely constructed with only a seat, dashboard, floor, and good axles and wheels. Dad even complimented me about it, which was more than a surprise; it shocked me because he never gave compliments. I left his bedroom exhilarated feeling we finally have the kind of relationship I had been wanting with him for the past sixteen years.
It wasn’t to be and I had no idea of why. It wasn’t just that I lost my father; I’d lost the volume of experiences and conversations with him that I longed for and wanted so badly. As difficult as it had been to live up to his expectations and suffer his demands, I knew he was someone whose wisdom and truth I could trust.
I returned late that afternoon excited to tell him how it went. Mom said he was sleeping but I could wake him up. I went immediately into his room and discovered he was strangely pale and not breathing. Mom called our family doctor Henry Schultz who came to the house. The doctor came out of the bedroom after examining Dad and told us, “I am putting the cause of death as heart failure on the death certificate but the truth is I don’t know why he died, there is nothing physically wrong with him.”
My mother and I knew he died from a broken heart. In 1950 my father spoke up about hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual employee thefts being committed by colleagues who had been his friends as well as co-workers for twenty years. Not only was there no response to his write-up, but later he was reprimanded by the head of New York Telephone Company for reporting what he knew. All his closest friends turned out to be no more than highly salaried thieves who destroyed his will to go on living.
Even as a child my instincts told me that he had family issues. He would head to our dimly lit basement, enter the coal bin, close the barn-sized door behind him, climb to the top of the coal pile, and sit in total silence and darkness for hours,. Without knowing the specifics even as a child I could sense his quality of life was diminished by some kind of communication problem. But I lacked knowledge of how to help.
It took several years of me whining and begging my father until I finally got a bicycle for my fourteenth birthday. It was a brand new red and white 26-inch Roadmaster and looked like what is called a beach cruiser today. To make it my own, I added white mud flaps with large red reflectors that were surrounded by a starburst of chrome, a chrome luggage rack over the rear fender, white hand grips with red and white tassels, a large chrome bell, and a beautiful light-tan leather saddle with a raised chrome bar across the back like motorcycle seats had. Days when the weather was good I would hop onto my bike and take a ride to boost my spirits. If knew then what I know now about how to communicate I would never have had to whine, plead, and beg to get my bike!
Sadly, it helped that my father was away from home a lot because his job called him out in times of the harshest weather conditions; hurricane, winter snow and ice storms, and springtime rain and wind storms. He was a troubleshooter for Bell Telephone System out of Albany, New York. When the lines went down he found out why and fixed them. Ice, condensation, and moisture were the nemesis of those wires strung between telephone poles. His home became a telephone-company-green-Dodge panel truck with its bank of electronic gauges set flush against the face of a wall he had built behind the passenger seat. Opposite was a bunk bed with storage underneath and a line of narrow cabinets above. Behind the truck he towed a teardrop shape trailer completely filled with electronics that allowed him to broadcast by ham radio and radio-telephone from any location.
Some of the storms that took him away from home had us in fear for our lives; hurricane winds toppled neighbor’s chimneys and fallen trees blocked the streets. While he was away on work I missed him. For a long time I thought it was his physical presence that I missed. Years later I realized what his going away put me into stasis, a period of time during which there was absolutely no chance we could communicate. At least when he was home there was a remote chance it might happen.
About once a month we made a Sunday visit to his parent’s in Troy, New York and there I learned my father was not and never had been in good communication with his mother. This man who never shouted in his own home was goaded into shouting by his mother, at her. Apparently he was badgered by her from childhood; she never praised him, and her comments about him and to him were all negative. His father whom I loved dearly seemed henpecked, and never intervened. What made it worse was his mother always acted loving, sweet, and considerate towards his sister Irene. His parents never helped him financially. He had gotten himself into and graduated from RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), Troy, New York as an Electrical Engineer.
The stern disciplinarian way he parented my brother and I clearly reflected there had been a nearly complete absence of good communication between our dad and his parents. When I screwed up some way he would lecture me and then walk away and refuse to listen or talk to me for at least the rest of that day. At times I followed him trying to get him to talk but he would ignore me, pretend that I wasn’t there. Our routine was to say “Goodnight” as we gave each parent a kiss on the cheek before we got into bed. When he was angry with me Dad would ignore my “Goodnight” and position himself so I could not give the usual kiss. Probably because she wanted to compensate for my father’s harshness, Mom would stop what she was doing to talk with me. She coached me on how to handle Dad and taught me vocabulary as well.
As a young man I had one friend, didn’t fit in at school, and felt like I was flawed, lost, and awkward in social settings. I was shy and withdrawn which attracted the bullies. After weeks of evading them Elliot Livingston and others cornered me after school one day and insisted I fight him. We fought on the back steps of PS#16, and somehow I got in a punch that broke his nose. Elliot stopped fighting and Jack Minozzi, who became a professional fighter after high school, stepped up and began punching me until I squatted on the ground with my arms over my head. I wasn’t hurt physically.
My last two years in high school I had a steady girl friend, Sally Storm. Every day after school we met up and hung out at the four-corners in Delmar, NY. We went to basketball games and dances together. We held hands, embraced, and kissed; we never had oral sex or intercourse. It was the 50s and nice girls didn’t do those. Our talk was social, never about sex, beliefs, or anything important. As a virile teen age boy my mind was mostly on bicycles, cars, motorcycles. One day a neighbor about my age, Carol Altman, stopped me as I was leaving home and chanted, “You guys are in for a surprise because I’m wise to the rise in your levis.” After that I focused on how to hide or get rid of erections.
My part time job at a gas station got one of my few friends to nickname me “Lightening” but I wasn’t popular at school. My first day at the Milne High School lunchroom three guys harassed me by grabbing my lunch sack and tossing it from guy to guy. I earned their respect but not their friendship when I overturned tables, chairs, and them too, and got my lunch back.
About then I knew part of my problem was that I was refusing to use the shine-on style of phony blathering and dialogue that most people used socially. I wanted authentic communication. My friend Ozzie told people about me, “He doesn’t say much but when he talks it’s usually worth listening to!” Thanks Ozzie!
As a young adult I knew I eventually wanted to be married and have children. First there was the challenge of talking to women and of course I couldn’t talk to women, especially beautiful women, and so I hardly dated at all. I could not seem to overcome my shyness and around women I got tongue-tied, nervous, and stupid. Job interviews were my most hated and painful experience.
Even during college I was a lousy conversationalist; I responded clumsily, got embarrassed when called on by an instructor, stumbled and fumbled with answers, still had only one close friend, didn’t know how or what to communicate,. I took college classes on communication and while some teachers made impressive points, their lectures didn’t help me much. My interest in the subject got me an invitation from L. Ron Hubbard to be an interne on his research and development project to create training for clergy in basic pastoral counseling techniques. That work allowed me to experience training which was personally helpful. It contained many interesting exercises and drills with the other participants. I saw that training and counseling on communication made a person’s life dramatically better. That experience made me realize how everyone in life is expected to be a good communicator without ever being given any education about it by schools, college, or churches.
The first thing I noticed personally was that my life changed for the better with every class I attended. At last I knew why I was never that good at communicating. It takes exact knowledge which is not available on every corner, and practice. Every aspect of my life improved but especially I noticed my income rose steadily, I felt better about myself, and I was suddenly close with people I had long wanted to have as friends – greater wealth and well-being! I vowed to share my discoveries with others. My life was better now because there was more real communication in it. Up to then I had thought I didn’t fit in that, I was different. Suddenly it was clear to me; I’m not so different from other people, we all crave to have more good communication.
For me, the mastery of communication proved a worthwhile pursuit. The rewards for improving your ability to communicate are instant, no waiting; getting there takes a bit of study and practice. The hard part is taking a full frontal look at the communication habits you need to resolve to be a better communicator. I was able to hide the fact that I was remodeling myself to be a better communicator by teaching the subject. Some people see me as a guru on the subject of communication but I still mess up – that just goes with lifelong learning. Yes, I am still striving to master my own communication skills.
It has been many years since I first began making a serious effort at improving my ability to communicate; some people have told me that I’ve made very little progress. The ability is there in everyone but it needs to be developed. I work at it on a daily basis. Most religions agree we are created by God in His image; our awareness, consciousness, intelligence, personality, attitudes, and our sense of right and wrong are all part of our personality. The ability to communicate is central to our spiritual nature.
Image is all about how you look and what you are wearing including your shoes or the watch on your wrist. Truth is those things help only if you communicate with excellence! How and what you communicate today will show up in your tomorrow as prosperity, loss or poverty. You need to cope with all kinds of people in life. Success comes with being absolutely authentic; it attracts people to trust and support you. Combine that with a clear focus on communicating the three essential elements in relationships, Admiration, Appreciation, and Validation to find you win more than you imagined! Success goes to those who don’t rely on social machinery and mental circuits that automatically greet, respond and converse like a pricey computer game!