Communication can seem scary only because it is still rather unknown turf, like undeveloped real estate. Yet it can become exciting if we think of ourselves as communication pioneers who are cultivating an empty lot. After all, we have plenty of tools to work with, such as writing, talking, body language, and eye contact. And more communications tools have been invented in the last century than ever before in history. In fact, with the invention of "email," we can write love letters to each other many times daily, enhancing what couples did 50-to-100 years ago when mail was delivered twice a day. So obviously we as a society want to open up and share ourselves with each other. We want to "reach out and touch someone." Yet, how many times a day do we hear the term "communication breakdown"? If the fax machine, the computer, and the portable-phone battery all go out at once, we panic. Suddenly we are shut off from communication. Now that's really scary; think about it. It is better to have all the communication devices working and say-whatcha- gotta-say, than to be in the dark and not be able to connect at all.
Good communication between people is much like having all the machinery working properly. We make contact, even if we don't always score or if we don't always hear what we want to hear. Many times though, we will hear even happier input than we expected. That is why we run the risk of opening; that is why we ultimately try to communicate. Tom is a 40-year-old singer who can croon a tune, but gets tongue-tied when he tries to verbalize his everyday thoughts. He met a lady named Dawn, and guess what? Not only was it the dawning of a relationship, but the light-of-dawn went on in Tom's head too. "We can talk!" he said to Dawn when he found the two of them could communicate effectively even if they often messed up their metaphors and mislaid information.
We think of communication as words, but it is really how and when those words are expressed. Timing and effectiveness are everything. The famous cartoon characters Tom & Jerry did a feature film a few years back, in which they both talked for the first time. This well known cat-and-mouse duo both spoke up at once after they had been chased by bad-dude alley cats; Tom & Jerry needed each other. "You talked!" these little guys shouted in unison, marveling at the revelation that each could speak. They'd worked together closely through 50 years of cartoons, and never really spoken. "I didn't know you could talk," Tom cat said. "Well, I didn't have anything to say that I thought you would understand," Jerry mouse sheepishly replied, making a circle on the sidewalk with his toe. Once they began talking, opening up, it was definitely a turning point in their relationship. They learned how to be buddies, even though they are still natural-born enemies.