Sunday, May 28, 2006

Communicating: food for thought

Effective Communication

Identifying with others is a very positive, sensitive thing to do. Communication is always more effective when interlocutors respect each other and give others their due.

Too often though, it seems to me, something gets in the way to inhibit effective communication. Sometimes it is a conflict of interests, perceived or real; sometimes what is called a clash of personalities, sometimes it is a lack of effort.

Of the three, lacking the effort seems the one where most ground can be made up, so to speak. Very often, perceived differences stem from an unwillingness to meet the other half way, to compromise, and work at doing so, for make no mistake, effective communication is hard work if it does not come naturally.

John Brown gave some very good advice on the pragmatics of effective communication. He said: “Be mild with the mild, shrewd with the crafty, confiding to the honest, rough to the ruffian, and a thunderbolt to the liar. But in all this, never be unmindful of your own dignity.”

Just being yourself, while perhaps being more open and honest policy, is not always the best one to adopt if you want to get the most out of your communications with others.

While being mild with the mild would undoubtedly have the effect of creating empathy, being shrewd with the crafty might not always work. Finding one’s equal is not the same thing as finding someone who empathizes with you.

Confiding to the honest seems to work; honesty should encourage honesty, though probably more often than not, being too open seems to sometimes be taken as a sign of weakness.

The ruffian surely expects rough treatment, but again, people who are rough probably got that way by being treated roughly, and so treating him roughly might be as good a way as any of ensuring he is rough back.

Everyone would agree that the liar needs a thunderbolt to bring him back to reality, goodness and honesty; providing that thunderbolt, while being honorable and courageous, might not be very pragmatic. I suppose it depends upon the kind of lies issuing from the mouth of the liar.

Brown’s final words, however, bring the various portions of advice together, in that the act of trying to be all things to all men, as we say, could be tantamount to losing your own identity, or at least subverting it to get on with people, and while we do this and have to do this every day of our lives, we should allow ourselves the luxury of not having to befriend every person we come in contact with, but neither should we be indifferent to them.
Robert L. Fielding


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