Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Communicating through Laughter

Language barrier is currently the biggest hurdle I have to jump over. There is no substitution to a long, in-depth conversation in your first language. It’s icing on the cake when it’s with someone from your generation because you share common slang, pop culture.

This doesn’t mean I cannot communicate with those around me. Fortunately, most people speak or understand enough English. Merely different vocabulary is utilized, changes in intonation and pronunciation are made, and the speed is greatly slowed down.

I’ve been writing how much I laugh and smile in the Philippines. It’s true their joy and laughter is contagious.

Recently I stumbled onto a new blog, Ilo Inspired written by Maxie McCoy. One of my favorite posts she wrote was on laughter as the universal language. How language barrier did not stop her from making a connection with an Indian woman emulating so much joy from her laugh. Maxie writes, “our joy in life radiates through signals that have nothing to do with the words we say.”

The post reminded me of a lunch about a month back. We eat as a staff every day and if there are guests in town for meetings or what not, they join us. This lunch was particularly full of visitors. Two ladies got into a conversation and the hall started roaring with boisterous, infectious laughter. Everyone in the room began to join in.

I couldn’t. I needed to know what the joke was about before I could laugh at it. I took it as a moment of weakness, pure isolation and felt like a true outsider. Then the Bishop turned to me and said, “you know there are 160 different dialects within the Philippines. I don’t know what is always being said. In those moments I just laugh. Laugh along with them and pretend you know what the joke was about.”

Looking back, I understand the message of the situation. I could either sit on the sidelines, on the outside feeling as though I will never understand. Or I could join in the roar of laughter. I could jump into life, into an experience with two feet without all the answers.

Laughter is a universal language. Laughter sends the message of happiness and joy. Laughing along with someone communicates your recognition of that person’s joy, your openness to experiencing other people.

I know I can be one to get in my head too much, worrying about the right thing to say or how to say it. In some moments there is no “right thing to say.” All you can do is laugh right along with them.

Thanks for reading! 

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