People do not communicate to most efficiently exchange concrete information- explicit, denotation-oriented downloads to one another. I would argue that, more often than not, people communicate to share far “less” than that. Small talk, water cooler conversation, storytelling, songs, and gossip are focused on the intangible and often “useless” data of relationship. The data of trust, of reciprocity, of fear, and of respect- the data of experience, emotions, and navigation- the data of us and them- the data of connection.
“Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” – Catherine M. Wallace
I have kept this quote close for years, as an emotional anchor through the endless streams of consciousness my children offer when they are happy and whole- but this week I have come to finally connect that this same core need persists in everyone. Age is no border against the need for connection.
Everything we learn, discover, or feel is likely old hat to someone somewhere- the “small stuff.” We do not share it because it’s a breakthrough for mankind – we share because it’s important to us- an individual breakthrough- and those we choose to share with are those whom we seek to explore in some way.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/ Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. – Hamlet (1.5.166-7)
Before you dismiss someone’s shared ramblings, stories, or “obvious” epiphanies- consider first the message that comes with the sharing. What is the data of relationship that is being communicated? You might just find something more valuable than words there.