“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” -Edgar Degas
A few days ago, my boyfriend and I had an argument. Ah yes. It was one of those arguments that gains momentum after an initial misunderstanding… the kind of argument during which one person says to the other, breathless and exhausted, “You. Just. Don’t. Get. It.” This is when relationship communication rears its complicated head. How do we communicate to our partners, lovers, and best friends if we sometimes just don’t get it?
A friend of mine recently told me that it helps for one person to say to the other, “Help me to understand what you mean.” Help me. What a beautiful concept: to surrender and ask the Other for help… instead of asserting that the Self always be right. Since every single one of us comes with our own set of (often dysfunctional) interpretations of how things SEEM instead of how things ARE, we often forget to –or choose not to– surrender to our loved ones. When this happens, it’s extremely difficult to gain perspective because our old “stuff” comes flooding in like a muddy river and clouds our judgment.
Fortunately for me, my boyfriend brought up the issue again the next morning. This time, however, he used what I call the “the painter analogy.”
In the most beautiful way possible (though I doubt he knew how beautiful this analogy would be to me since he doesn’t know that I’ve often wondered if my mind resembles a Jackson Pollock painting), he explained that the demands of his job –and his subsequent inability to make short-term plans with me– was like a painter’s palette. Instead of being able to freely mix the colors before him and paint a dream landscape, he was only able to use the primary colors. He was confined to stay within the lines. While his analogy was a very simple one, it moved me. I finally got it.
Our ability to see things from the another’s perspective is one thing. That’s the building block for great communication. However, it’s an entirely different thing to help your partner visualize beauty after an argument…and to help them see Art instead of Anger. That’s not communication. That’s love.