The love knot

In skilled hands, two pieces of rope can be manipulated in such a way that they resemble a pair of intertwined hearts. This is known as a love knot. Romantic, isn't it?

A story told by E. Annie Proulx in, The Shipping News, adds another dimension to the story of the love knot. It goes like this: A sailor would tie a loose love knot and send it to his beloved. The love knot is essentially a question, asked in the language of rope.

What is the answer? If the knot was returned snugly knotted, that's essentially yes, the sailor's love is reciprocated. If it's returned loose, as it was sent, then there's not much going on; the relationship is at a standstill.

Does that cover all the possibilities? No. The knot could be returned capsized (distorted into something else). What does that mean? You don't have to be well-versed in sailor's lore to figure that out to be, as Proulx puts it, "tacit advice to ship out."

Now, this story may be true; it may be folklore; it may have been fabricated out of someone's imagination. Regardless, it sparks an interesting question about how we communicate and how we determine whether we are understood.

Often when we think of non-verbal communications, body language comes to mind. There's our posture, our facial expressions, the tone of voice that we use. These are all indicators of what we are really thinking or what we really believe, regardless of the words we are using.

In a conversation where the spoken words and the non-verbals match, we can come away with some conviction that we understand. We might not be in agreement, but at least, like the sailor who receives the capsized knot, the answer is clear.

Sometimes we deliberately disguise what we mean for good and thoughtful reasons. Maybe we don't want to hurt the feelings of the other, or we want to avoid a conflict. Maybe we are concerned about self-preservation; we may disguise beliefs out of fear of ridicule or worse. Thus, we sometimes nod along and smile with someone who expresses sentiments that are out of harmony with our own, even though internally, we have quite a different expression.

Yet even when we are not trying to be insincere, there are still risks of misunderstandings. Even though we are supposedly speaking the same language, if we don't have a shared understanding of the meanings of words, we can hardly communicate effectively.

Whatever would I be talking about? Of course, we understand our words! However, our expressions of feelings, in particular, can be problematic. One person's understanding of, "I love you," can be quite different from another's when it gets down to brass tacks and practical matters of shared values, hopes, dreams, futures, and actions.

Other words, such as "progress," "security," "crisis," can mean remarkably different things to different people. Without a love knot to clearly indicate to us whether we're being asked to "move forward," "stand still," or "get lost," how can we tell what someone really means?

I'll leave you with this thought from Dr. Glasser's book, Choice Theory. Although the context of the suggestion is specifically regarding teenagers, I've found it useful for many situations where there's an opportunity for confusion.

Glasser says, "Pay close attention to what they do but little attention to what they say." What do you think of that suggestion? Let me know at choice@focusonclarity.com or by mail c/o Progress Bulletin.

To your choices! ~ Susanne ~

Thank you for printing this article from lighthousenow.ca. Subscribe today for access to all articles, including our archives!