Failure of Communication by Misha Lyuve

Oct 6, 2013

On a perfect day in a peaceful beautiful place, I witnessed a failure of communication.

Last Saturday, an Indian summer day blossomed in Fire Island. I was lying on a lonely beach enjoying soft rays of hot though gentle sun, when I heard: “Get off the dunes! Get off the dunes!” The dunes in Fire Island protect the island from high waves (they saved much of the island during the Hurricane Sandy) and locals never get tired of reminding visitors to stay away from them. So an older gentlemen, let’s call him John, was screaming, “Get off the dunes!” In response the other older gentlemen, let’s say Ben, was standing right next to the sign “Stay away from the dunes” and was yelling back, with a British accent, “I am not going into the dunes!” John, either not sure about Ben’s intentions or because he couldn’t hear him, kept screaming and eventually Ben started moving towards John.

When they got closer to each other, I couldn’t decipher what they were saying. But I was sure, now that they could hear each other, those two would figure it out; the two silver foxes with faces weathered by life looked like they could’ve been CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or professors in college, had they been dressed.

But next thing I heard was John saying “Just go back to the country where you came from.” Here my optimism waned. In response Ben produced a tirade on how no one liked Americans anyway and that this was a police state.

And here we were, on a perfect day in a peaceful beautiful place.

So now here – three easy steps to fail a communication:
1. Misunderstand intentions of the other. Just make assumptions about the person or what they are saying, and acknowledge only a portion of what is being said that fits your assumptions
2. Get frustrated or even offended over it. And get nasty; a few tips here: make a personally offensive remark to the person or insult the whole group that person belongs to
3. Leave the conversation acknowledging how right you are. Tell friends and have them agree with you.

Alternatively, you can stop this madness at any point. The earlier the better.

Fire Island dunes and beach

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