Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Talk To Me - 9 - Good, Clear Communication

So, when should we not speak? 

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

One of the times is when we should be listening, instead. 

The object of communication is to understand one another. Listening is far more important than speaking, if you want to learn things. But if you never speak, others won't learn about you. 

Ideally then, it would be 50-50. It may take a bit of effort to achieve that, and listening involves more than simply not talking. It's always good to take a few moments to remember why you are conversing with another person at all. If we assume it is to solve or avoid problems, listening is the first step. Really listening. 

There is a shared responsibility, I believe, in clear communication, whether written or spoken. Both the speaker and the listener must make an effort. 

If we stick to the truth, avoid offence, and stay calm and civil, it should be possible to communicate clearly, provided the other party is listening, and will do the same when their turn to speak comes. So why do people spend so much time verbally sparring? 

I think it's because we get this aspect of it wrong. We speak when we shouldn't, and don't speak when we should. In my final analysis of poor communication, it comes down to this. While what we say, and even the way we say it is important, we do somehow manage to forgive and get over lies, harsh words, and even mistakes, we forget. But we never learn from our mistakes. We repeat the insults. We rise to anger again. We say what shouldn't be said, or at least don't phrase it well. Over and over and over. Verbal diarrhoea of knee-jerk reactions, and a complete and utter lack of well thought out words.

Is it any wonder really? We spend much of our lives reading and watching rubbish media instead of good literature and educational presentations. The reason that the Ancient Greeks managed to sit and articulate deep, lasting wisdom, was because they hadn't melted their brains on tabloid chat shows and sensationalist journalism. We talk in clichés and become brainwashed by advertising, and then seem surprised when the younger members of our society can't make wise choices. What do they have as role models? 

In order to communicate we must reach a certain level of awareness. Talking does NOT equate to communicating, and hearing does not equate to listening. Both what we say, and what we keep our silence on are important, but to decide which it is going to be requires a level of thinking that most people are just to lazy to bother with. Instead they say the first thing that comes into their head, and then expect everyone to accept their apologies later. And because nobody was listening properly anyway, they may even get away with it. 

I'm not greatly impressed with the levels of human communication I see around me, and I am convinced it is due to people simply not paying attention to the problem. Above all I see tolerance being extremely one-sided quite often, and rather selective. I see black people speaking hate about gay people, and vice versa, and I see the most appalling religious bias. Much of this could be fixed, or at least lessened, if people communicated. 

I get teased (and I probably deserve it) for being a bit pedantic about grammar. But it's the thin end of the wedge. If we pay attention to the actual words we write and speak, it is all part of the awareness of how vital it is to communicate well. 

If we brush these things aside with a "TSK, you know what I mean!" I am forced ask, "well do I?"

If I hear, as I often do, "I didn't mean what I said", then I am forced to wonder if anything you say at all can be reliable. 

What I see is a lot of blundering around, instead of stopping, thinking, and concentrating. What I'm seeing is a distinct lack of awareness. So I guess I'll have to talk about that next. 

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