Just recently someone told me they did not own a cellphone. I found that hard to believe. After some thought I found myself being somewhat envious of that person. Think about it. The freedom. And, ironically, the inconvenience. It would take some getting used to. Communication plays a key role in our everyday lives. In fact our means of communication have changed and expanded greatly over the years. Some of it is good, others not so good. In my last post I vented about Facebook. Many other means of communication have become an important part of our lives.
Imagine if everyone in your life would forgo communication through email, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin, to name a few, and would only communicate through actual conversations. Due to all this technology, communication has probably increased but, I would argue, it is not all for the common good. Imagine if a friend came to you and showed you pictures of what they had for dinner, pictures of pets pooping on the floor, messages of extreme political views, everything that frustrated them, wishful thinking, personal updates on hygiene, underwear that was purchased, angry thoughts about their boss, stupidity of colleagues, and more. Sounds ludicrous, right? It happens on Facebook.
How about emails. It has become the norm to communicate with emails, for work and socially. It has become far too easy to send messages by email. Often messages that would not be conveyed would they be done in person. Often times there are no sober second thoughts given before the send button gets hit. I have sometimes wished I could run after the message and pull it back. But when that email is sent, it is as good as “said”. And how often do we tend to read emotion into an email? Emotion that may or may not be there. Most often what we read into an email is dictated by our own thoughts and emotion.
In my work communication plays a major role in more ways than one. Communication often causes conflict. Frequently it’s not what was said but the way it was said. It has been suggested that 10% of conflict is created by a difference of opinion while 90% is created by the wrong tone of voice. Research has shown that 7% of communication is verbal, 38% is tone and 55% is body language.
Communication is also key to resolving conflict. A lack of understanding frequently drives the conflict. I often tell my clients that it is not about being right or wrong but rather to gain understanding. Understanding is the first step to resolving conflict. For that to happen involves both talking and listening. Being able to clearly articulate your needs and wants but also listening to the other’s needs and wants. Often times we listen to reply rather than to understand. The Dalai Lama once said that “when you talk you are only repeating what you already know; but when you listen you may learn something new”
I have talked before about vulnerability. To become vulnerable opens the door to an increased ability to communicate. To share and to listen. But we also need empathy. Empathy gives us the ability to identify with others. To understand what struggles, difficulties, or feelings they may be experiencing. As Alfred Adler puts it, “empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” For me the challenge is to become a better communicator because we know that the best communicators listen more than they talk. Make it a good one.
"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."