Deciphering A Mixed Message
During a recent lighthearted round of gossip with a friend we chanced upon a popular topic - extramarital relationships. One of our acquaintances who was married happened to have embarked on a relationship with a colleague. My friend H initially expressed great concern about this state of affairs, evincing horror at the way a married man could forget his commitments to his wife and carry on with another woman and so on. Gradually, becoming aware of my non-committal (somewhat amused) silence, she stopped and then gave an embarrassed giggle. She then followed it up with a non sequitor which at the verbal level made no sense to me though I could somehow understand the feeling behind it. What was evident was H’s embarrassment at this point, brought on probably by the fact that she was thinking of the same thing that I was and that was of the flaming affair she herself had had much earlier when she was well into the tenth or twelfth year of marriage, while her husband was more or less at the height of his career, and while she, her spouse and the kids managed to present to the outside world, the image of an ideal, well knit, respectable family - the kind you see in the pressure cooker ads or ads for masalas and pickles which are supposed to keep the family together.
H’s remark reminded me of the time years ago when I was in college and I used to shoot my mouth off about a whole lot of subjects I really didn’t know much about, including pre-marital and extramarital sex and how it was all a matter of freedom and choice. No doubt much of what I said then was for pure shock value so of course I couldn’t help feeling triumphant at the lengthy and pointless debates my statements got me into with M, an ultra conservative classmate with some pretty rigid beliefs on life and relationships. Exactly how pointless those debates were I found out only years later, during one of those very edifying girlie sessions with a friend who had also been a classmate, when I learned that all the time M had been playing holy mother with us, she herself had been living it up with two fellow students at the university, neither of whom she eventually married.
There is good reason for not always believing what people tell you and the more force they say something with, the less credible it sounds, at least to me. The very vehemence makes you question the veracity of a statement. Remember Colonel Fitts in American Beauty who rages at his son on the false assumption that he is a homosexual, only to later exhibit gay tendencies himself?
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” I frequently find myself echoing the sentiments of the queen in “Hamlet.” Over-assertion of love or of loyalty for example, really makes one doubt their authenticity. On the other hand when a person claims to hate someone (especially of the opposite sex) you wonder if there isn’t another, diametrically different feeling lurking behind the apparent hatred which she/she is unaware of or trying desperately to hide. Aggression often veils something like its opposite in terms of emotion, for example fear. Hostility when you examine it, more often than not is a convoluted plea for affection, though the hostile person would hardly be able to admit that. And behind his mask of distance you find that a person you consider inaccessible, only happens to be painfully shy and sensitive.
What we end up saying or showing to the world is in fact not always what it seems to be. It is said that only seven per cent of the real meaning of a piece of communication is conveyed through words, the rest is revealed through body language, tone of voice, the odd give away gesture that sometimes belies what a person is trying so hard to convince you about. Small wonder that with so many mixed messages floating among us we are generally so short on trust in the human world. But being aware of what and how you’re communicating and trying to be aware of the possible feelings which might be sparking off another person’s words, does increase our understanding, both of ourselves and others. Eventually, you realize, it is not so much the words we exchange but this deeper understanding between us that is likely to pave the way to a more peaceful and trusting environment.
Deciphering A Mixed Message
- » Published on October 30, 2007
- » Type: Opinion
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