“Communication is a process”

We live in a world where outcomes are valued. “What did we do?”, “what grade did we get?”, “what happened at the end?”, “how much money did it make us?”. Less valued are the more abstract principles: “how did it feel?”, “how enjoyable was it?”, “was it enriching for our soul”, “did it make our heart sing?”. Our society often wants and generally expects the immediate. There is a movement towards slow food and home grown foods, which aims to gather people into its process. The two are currently opposing each other. Maccas vs 16 hour slow cooked pork.

The artistic process is similar in the desire to sit with something and to not have to know the answer. To reside in it. To feel into it. To find a structure to support the flow, and not the other way around. I am about to embark upon a voyage of internal and external discovery by going over the sea to our southern island. There may not be an outcome. Many are already asking what the outcome of my artistic venture will be. As yet, I have not been through the process to know the outcome. For in the process I may change my ideas, change my view, change how it feels and I have to remind myself that it is all valid. Or there may be no outcome at all. None. Now there is an idea I have been sitting with. 

I often use the phrase to my non-native English speaking students: “Communication is a process, not an outcome”. You need to say every word, articulate it clearly, not speak at the same speed as our thoughts and speak for the listener, not the self. Process reminds them not to be at the next phrase before finishing the one they are saying first. Process reminds them that they need to ensure that the listener is understanding them. It reminds us to be present. To not be ahead of ourselves, which sometimes is all too easy to do.

I have been wondering how much of the day do we communicate to have an end result? With friends, work mates, cashiers? How much of our speaking and listening is just mulling out ideas, expressing our point of view, discussing what it is that makes us happy, dreaming of the future and reminiscing of the past? Does it feel good? Do we need to have an outcome?

I know many of my clients who stutter tell me that they are acutely aware of being rushed, asked to hurry up or “spit it out”. This seems to paradoxically make the “outcome” (ie getting their message across fluently) even worse. They are stuck in the process, and the listener then tries to assist with the outcome, guessing for words. Usually this doesn’t work, with both parties feeling a variety of negative emotions, usually frustration and embarrassment and a desire to leave the conversation.

So how can we make the shift from outcome to process occur? Does one need to? Perhaps it is about balance. One day we may love to read Proust describing wallpaper for 15 pages. Another day we may want short and shiny. Balance. I need to acknowledge that there may be times when outcomes are limiting and limited. It takes me away from limitless possibilities. Musicians are in process. There is a beautiful unfolding that occurs when listening to it, and often why the resolution at the end of a piece is so sweet.

I am looking forward to luxuriating in my own process. Mindful that there will be parts of me that reside not in the present that will already be dissecting, critiquing, evaluating and analysing what it is I am doing. I will aim to be aware of them, and let them know that they too can take a break. That they are not needed in the present moment. And that in flow I may be fully immersed and discover true wonder and joy.