I’m a communication nerd, tried and true, through and through. Interpersonal communication (which I call “practical psychology”) was really my salvation in a lot of ways. In undergrad, I took intro classes in theology and communication “just for fun” and fell in love instead. Subconsciously, I saw both areas as ways I, the peacekeeper and communication ‘director’ in my family, could help them get along better.
However, better communication, such as asking clarifying questions or not interrupting (especially because we assume we know what someone is going to say), can really help us all. We each come to a conversation with varied experiences. What the word ‘dog’ conjures up for one person can be very different for another, and it can change day to day as new experiences come into our lives and change our perspectives. This is probably why I have a hard time with the concept of ‘universal truths’. That, and being a P on the Myers Briggs.
Everything we say is interpreted by our receiver; you could even call hearing an interpretation because the listener deciphers the message you give by taking in all of the ways you said it. We all have different ‘lenses’ from which we see situations so unfortunately no one will be able to understand exactly what you are trying to say but we do give others a lot to work with–80% of what we say is nonverbal; i.e. voice inflection, facial expressions, body movements, sarcasm, etc. To be a good listener (or reader!) we have to listen without thinking of what we are going to say next and give nonverbal (nodding one’s head) and verbal (“I see” or “wow”) feedback.
Dr. Phil, whether you think him a guru or an idiot, has some good stats. The other day I heard him say that 80% of the questions we ask are statements in disguise (a.k.a. leading or passive aggressive questions). These can often be hard to identify. The Quakers have a tradition called the ‘clearness committee’ in which a person gathers about 4 people to help him or her make an important decision. The job of the committee is to ask clarifying and bias free (as much as possible!) questions. So, for instance, they may ask, “How do you see this new job changing your family life?” rather than “Don’t you think this will be bad for your family?”.
One of my favorite quotes is, “Never take for malice what may have only been said in stupidity”. Now, I’m not saying what someone else says is stupid, but it reminds ME not to be the stupid one and avoid jumping to conclusions about what someone meant. Furthermore, when someone offers a perspective on something that really makes sense to them, makes them feel whole, etc., it does not always follow that it would do the same for others. So, I try to remember that this is what makes sense to me. I imagine it seems odd that someone could come to such a different conclusion when reading the same thing you did or not be interested in what excites you but it happens. Is the other person wrong? Are you wrong? Well, why does anyone need to be wrong? (I’m not talking about moral relativism though; that’s a whole different topic I’m hoping someone else would like to tackle in another post!)
I have had a few conversations on this blog about the difference between dialogue and debate. I won’t bias you with my personal definitions of them, but I would love to hear how others define them and what you think the difference between the two are. There’s always more to learn, right?