Failure to Communicate

9689BD5B-2BFB-4471-B465-A306C445FB2BOne of my favorite movie quotes comes from the Paul Newman movie, “Cool Hand Luke.” In that movie, Newman plays Luke, a chain gang prisoner, who is being addressed by the prison warden, played by Strother Martin, and who goes by “Captain.”

Captain says to Luke, “You gonna get used to wearing them chains after a while, Luke. Don’t you never stop listening to them clinking, ’cause they gonna remind you what I been saying for your own good.”

Luke replies, “I wish you’d stop being so good to me, Cap’n.”

Angered by Luke’s retort, Captain responds, “Don’t you ever talk that way to me. NEVER! NEVER!” He then starts beating on Luke, who rolls down the hill. Captain continues, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach.”

What strikes me about this “failure to communicate” quote is how true it is these days. Just look at our elected representatives in Congress. They are continuing to fail to communicate with one another. They are all so entrenched in their own ideologies and beliefs that nothing meaningful ever gets accomplished.

When I was a member of my high school debate club — yes, I was a bit of a nerd in high school  — the faculty sponsor said, “Listen for understanding, not for rebuttal.” I thought that was wise advice, but does anyone do that anymore? Do people actually listen for understanding?

It doesn’t matter what the topic of conversation is. It can be politics, ideology, philosophy, religion, climate change, abortion, immigration, energy, culture, or society in general. Few people, it seems, are interested in truly communicating with one another. They just seem to dig in their heels and argue.

It’s even true in our personal lives. How many times have you gotten into an argument with a friend, with your spouse, your parents, your kids, or even with a co-worker, where you are not really hearing what the other person has to say? Are you and the person on the other side of the argument honestly and openly communicating with one another? Are you truly listening?

Do you ever find yourself involved in a debate on Twitter or in the comments sections on Facebook  or on a blog post where everyone is “talking,” but it seems that no one is listening to or trying to understand others’ perspectives?

I admit to doing that more than I should.

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.

8 thoughts on “Failure to Communicate

  1. Ambi March 26, 2018 / 5:12 am

    You have brought up a topic which is very important yet mostly taken for granted. I agree these days we hardly listen to understand. The major reasons are probably our own insecurities about our perspectives. Whatever we say, we all are guilty of doing that.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. D. A. M. Steelman March 27, 2018 / 3:01 am

    I love this movie… the first time I heard the ‘failure to communicate’ line was in the song “Civil War” by Guns N Roses… I hunted down the line and then found Cool Hand Luke which is one of my all time favorite movies. And I think a lot of us argue to be heard instead of to listen. That’s the problem. Everyone wants to talk and no one wants to listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango March 27, 2018 / 6:47 am

      “Everyone wants to talk and no one wants to listen.” Indeed, that is the problem.


  3. goroyboy March 27, 2018 / 5:51 am

    One of my top 3 movies.. Totally agree with the listening to respond rather than understand.. I too have engaged in these endless, fruitless endeavors. Another good one is, you take everything so personally. Yes, it’s because I am a “person” dammit! Admittedly it’s fun to stir the pot of some extremists (guilty pleasure)haha. It is so easy to lob grenades from afar in the information superhighway called the internet. More difficult is hand to hand combat and face to face debating where voice inflection and body language adds to the experience.. the only two real words Congress would “understand”if we as a people shouted them is TERM LIMITS!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango March 27, 2018 / 6:57 am

      The “term limits” words are being used by the students from the high school in Parkland, FL to try to get our elected representatives in Congress to finally listen for understanding regarding the imposition of common sense gun laws. I’m hoping that in this case there won’t be a failure to communicate. I guess we’ll find out one way or the other in November.

      Liked by 1 person

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