What’s the best way to learn a language? Immersion, right? You put yourself in a new environment, and in order to survive, you have to recognize patterns, make correlations, and put your decoding abilities into warped speed. Sink or swim.
Communication skills consist of more than linguistics and semiotics, though. Recognizing the meaning, the message that resides in or that emits from another person’s entity requires more than solid listening comprehension skills and even empathy. Putting yourself in another person’s place may enable you to consider matters from his point-of-view, but being able to comprehend fully what someone has to convey involves a different vocabulary, such as body language. Hand gestures, facial expressions, dance, and other forms of movement.
Lately, I’ve discovered that while the successful communication with another human being depends on understanding the denotative and connotative components of spoken and written words, but the profundity of what two people can express to one another lies elsewhere. It transcends the quotidian needs of “what’s for dinner,” “where did I put my keys,” “what did you mean when you said.” Furthermore, it’s not a language that anyone can conspire to learn. There is no cheat sheet, no cliffsnotes version. What works for one set of persons may not work for another. The only prerequisite is a bit of luck…that you’re cerebrally and spiritually open enough to know what is happening. It also helps when the party that is more fluent in non-verbal speech demarcates the entrance to his club.
Learning this kind of language can be vital in the process of getting to know someone. I never thought that the degree to which you know someone (well) is about what you know: factoids and trivia. On the contrary, I was always more inclined to believe that how well you know a person has more to do with how accurately you can predict their reactions to a variety of situations as well as their modus operandi in navigating through reality. Some people are adept at reading others’ patterns (a la The Mentalist), whereas others don’t give a flying frock about it.
I’d have to say I’m better at gaining access into someone’s psyche than I am at interpreting their surface. Hence, my sarcasm radar registers pathetically and I’m prone to seeing subtext as text. Paradoxically, or not, I’m relieved for the opportunity to learn a new language. Its semantics bypass my over-thinking mind and plugs in to a realm beyond the need for an alphabet.
People aren’t literary or cinematic texts. Their lives can mirror the narrative trajectories of such texts, but they’re still works of non-fiction. Foibles aren’t always ironic, strengths are often under-appreciated, and poetic (a)symmetry is probably applied rather than innate to the development or disintegration of relationships.
Nonetheless, you needn’t reject all methods of analysis; you should just be more discriminate with it.