Communication Trouble is Normal

Kendall family discussion

Last week I wrote about our family picture shoot and my own impatience in the process. I asked for any other stories that you might want to submit, mainly so that I wouldn’t feel so alone in the role of spoiler. Thank you, Amy Kendall, for sending your pics and for your brief narrative.

Amy’s sister wanted everyone in white shirts for the picture, but somehow Amy did not get the word. In Amy’s words, “I don’t think I was a ‘picture’ of Christ that day.” The final result is below.

Kendall family final picture

Communication snafu after snafu makes the world more colorful, wouldn’t you say?

Patricia and I will have been married thirty years this month, but still we hang up sometimes with our communication differences.

She asks, “What do you want for dinner?”

I say, “It doesn’t matter; I like everything you cook.”

“Would you like a salad or fish and vegetables?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“What about chicken and vegetables?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“What do you like?”

“I like what you fix.”

The difference is that when she says it doesn’t matter, it does; whenI says it doesn’t matter; it really doesn’t matter. She just can’t believe that.


Recently, I ran into Jennifer and her husband. I remembered when Jennifer had been sent to my office for talking too much in K4. At that time, I sat down with her and explained simply and clearly why she needed to be a listener so that she could learn. “If you talk too much, you can’t be a learner,” I explained.

She said, “ I like your tie.”

I noticed that her husband was not wearing a tie. Smart man.


Communication is a busy intersection that involves what is said and what is understood and what is felt and what is sensed and on and on. In other words, it is complicated. There is always more to it than just the words, there is the spirit, the intonation, the intent, the circumstance, the emotions of both sides.


A friend of Patricia’s had to meet with a lawyer to give a deposition. Things didn’t go well, and she was greatly discouraged when she came out. Patricia was there to console her with these words, “At least you’re not fat.” Amazingly, those words encouraged her. As a matter of fact, when her friend was feeling depressed recently, she remembered that time and told herself, “At least I’m not fat.” Then she laughed and felt better. Go figure.

This kind of communication makes no sense to me, but I do understand that something beyond the words was said . . . somehow. Perhaps it was this: I’m here for you. I care. I’m not going anywhere. I love you.


The attempt to communicate is better than shutting down. An argument with a teen is better than silence. The awkwardness of the moment, the discomfort of a show of temper, the obviously wrong choice of words are worth it in the long run. Even in our imperfections, we  communicate concern, love, presence.

So, let’s all keep trying. In the big picture, we’re in this together.


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