Communication is All About You

Syn­op­sis: Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is All About You — as with most things, how well you com­mu­ni­cate is about how you choose to do things!

So, for the longest time (18 years and counting) Darbella and I have been working on learning Spanish. 

We did a week long home stay back in 2005 and again a decade lat­er, have attend­ed class­es, and work through Duolin­go lessons daily. 

We’ve done class­es in Ontario, and have stud­ied at a lan­guage school in Nicaragua.

I men­tion this because we real­ly do under­stand a lot of Span­ish, do well with our lessons, and can do things like shop, order in restau­rants… and I’ve even done tech sup­port in Spanish.

The only place where things fall apart is when people actually speak Spanish to us.

Well, kid­ding but only a bit. 

Exam­ple: The grounds-keep­er at our con­do in Cos­ta Rica speaks to one of the maids. I’ll get about two words.

What hap­pens for me is this: 

  • If I know what the top­ic is, I can relax and just let the words flow over me, and I’ll “get” 90% of it. And I can answer in short sentences. 
  • The trou­ble starts if I over­hear a con­ver­sa­tion, but don’t know the topic. 
  • Or, if some­one changes the topic.

In oth­er words, so long as I am in charge and steer­ing things, I’m kind of flu­ent. As soon as anoth­er per­son has the audac­i­ty to do some­thing unex­pect­ed, I might as well wave a white flag.

And this is how it goes with all communication.

When I teach the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Mod­el Dar­bel­la and I use, I get blank stares, and some­times, “You’ve got to be kid­ding me! I can’t talk like that all the time. Peo­ple will think I’m nuts!”

Note: And if your present rela­tion­ship needs work, well… check out The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever. It’s my rela­tion­ships book… you’ll find all the help you need!


But you have to practice, all the time! 

If you don’t use the Mod­el all the time, in all cir­cum­stances, you’re going to get tripped up. When?

When the oth­er per­son veers off, changes the sub­ject, or does some­thing unex­pect­ed. Just like me, and Spanish.

But here’s the real point: it’s not the fault of the other person!

You! Lis­ten Faster!!

In Cos­ta Rica, many expats “com­plain” about the locals using “rapid fire Span­ish.” Words get slurred togeth­er, and it real­ly is hard when native speak­ers get going with each other. 

But that’s not the fault of the Cos­ta Ricans. That’s due to “my” inabil­i­ty to keep up.

Now, sure, I can utter “lenta­mente” and hope the oth­er per­son will slow down, but real­ly, the issue is me. I’m not hear­ing well. If I want less dis­tress, I need to hear bet­ter, and not to freak out. 

I need to let go of expect­ing oth­ers to make is easy for me.

Just like all communication.

Imag­ine a world where every­one demands that the oth­er per­son speak and act “as expected.” 

Now, usu­al­ly, peo­ple do have this expec­ta­tion, but it only goes one way. It would be like me expect­ing that all of Cos­ta Rica ought to speak the way I want. 

Most people have this idea when they talk with spouses, family, friends, whomever.

And then, they get pissed off when the oth­er per­son makes the same sug­ges­tion to them.

The best com­mu­ni­ca­tors are the peo­ple who speak always and only for them­selves, while adapt­ing to the thrusts and par­ries of the per­son they are talk­ing with.

Sure, it’s nice, say, to be in a class, speak­ing Span­ish with oth­er grin­gos, while a bilin­gual teacher lis­tens to and com­ments on each word, but this is emphat­i­cal­ly not what hap­pens in real life.

In real life, com­mu­ni­ca­tion can be messy, get bogged down, can even be avoid­ed for years. Until it’s too late. But that only hap­pens if you just stand there and blame “the Cos­ta Ricans.”

I can’t get Dar­bel­la to speak bet­ter Span­ish, and she can’t get me to speak bet­ter Span­ish. I can work on mine, and encour­age her to work on hers, and that’s it from my side.

Same with day-to-day com­mu­ni­ca­tion. I can show up, and to the best of my abil­i­ty do it “right,” and that’s it. Dar’s going to show up and do what she does.

Now, of course, we wouldn’t have stuck with each oth­er for almost 40 years had we not, at the same time and in our own way, both com­mit­ted to end­less prac­tice with the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Model. 

We do as well as we do because, in the end, our goal is “fluency” in Wayne-and-Dar-speak. Period.

So, no demands on oth­ers to “do it right.” Just a demand on myself to do it well, and to do it well-er tomorrow.

Because, like every­thing else, the game is about learn­ing to be present in the world, despite what the world is doing.


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is known on the web as the Sim­ple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Pri­vate Prac­tice Coun­sel­lor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the lat­est being The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

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