June 30, 2020  |  David R. Novak



This is the 26th week of 2020, and the halfway mark of this strangely odd year with the wonderfully even number. This is also halftime of this newsletter project in the form it will exist as for this year.

The archives of the first 25 weeks are here. See the progress from the start or review topics like clarity, nonverbal communication, and communication failure. There are articles noting the difficulties of self-assessing communication and exalting the benefits of listening among other topics.

This week’s iteration marks halftime, halfway, the end of the 2nd quarter, and a pause in the usual activity to to reset before proceeding forward.

I want to revisit feedback, a topic I’ve already explored and discussed a little.

Feedback Revisited

Admittedly on my mind for a number of reasons, not just because I was writing about it, I’ve been pondering feedback’s relevance and importance in everyday interactions. There’s always some fear in wondering what will people say in reaction to you. That vulnerability is always there, unless you’re a narcissist, of course. There’s always dignity in some degree of not caring, being yourself, and saying what you want to say, and not really caring about feedback.

In just these past 26 weeks, I’ve gotten good amounts of encouraging feedback on the articles I’ve shared, both from people I know and those I don’t. That’s been welcome, but I’ll note that feedback is also outside of our control. I’m happy to say what I’ve gotten has been mostly positive. Encouraging, but outside control. And certainly there’s no guarantee things will remain that way. All I can control is my own abilities and dedication to writing each week. None of which guarantees anyone likes anything I have to say about the things I’m talking about.

Feedback, good or bad, no matter the circumstance is mostly out of your control, if you’re the one receiving it, that is. Giving feedback is a different story.

All of this, of course, goes for any relationship and does not just pertain to sharing articles.

It can be a difficult to know how to process feedback, what to do with responses to the things you say, or determining whether feedback is worth paying attention to.

What I’ve learned I suppose, is that small nuggets of encouraging feedback might not seem like much, but they can really add up.

Feel encouraged to say encouraging, supportive things to those around you, those you interact with. Small, positive, encouraging words can really mean a lot. Hope is given. Encouragement is facilitated and serves as fuel.

Who are the people for you that would benefit from encouragement? How and where can you be encouraging and positive?

Communication and Belief

Another topic I’ve been pondering is the compulsion (in a good way) to stick to your guns, your gut beliefs and when we feel it’s safe to open ourselves up to learning. When to talk? And say what you believe? And when to be quiet? What if your, or someone else’s beliefs, are wrong?

How to find balance between speaking with truth and dignity and honor and knowing when more talking is exactly what is detrimental to a situation?

Nearly everywhere I look, I see people that are talking that should be listening and plenty of people indignantly weary, rightfully so, of saying things repeatedly to people who ignorantly choose to deny reality. How should we embrace or reject the idea that on some things people need to continue to speak until people listen? What do we do when people won’t listen? What happens when talking doesn’t work anymore? What are the limits, if any, of communicating with one another?

These are exceedingly complicated questions. Unfortunately at this time I have few answers.

I champion listening, but plenty of people flat out refuse to listen or authentically consider a reality other than their own direct experience. What is to be done about this? Most people don’t care to, nor are any good at, dissecting their own power, privilege, and proclivities even when that ought to be obvious. How? Why? There are lots of people out there speaking on all the wrong things and staying silent where they should not be. Wrapped up on wrong-way distractions, speaking up only to reveal their confusion in celebrating the very wool that has been pulled over their eyes. What do we do in the face of these sorts of communication problems?

Big questions and situations that, for me, call up questions on the limits, if there are any, of what good communication can be.

When, for example, is speaking, rather than listening, the answer? What is to be done when some people don’t seem to ever want to listen? What do we do when people’s speaking is only evidence of their tolerance of the suffering of others? People staying silent on things that matter is a problem. MLK taught us this. What if people refusing to listen or ever stop talking is just as big a part of the problem?

I want thank you if you’re reading. I’ve had a lot of folks join the newsletter in the last 13 weeks. The first 25 articles of my newsletter are available in the archive.

Communication hot takes back next week.