“Every problem in life begins as a communication problem!”
When friend in college made this comment, I dismissed it with a snort and retorted “Yeah, right!”.
Since he was a journalism major, this seemed like a very parochial point of view at the time – especially since I was an engineering major and considered myself too logical to be “prone to such gross simplifications of complex or abstract concepts”.
Life experience has confirmed that simplicity of expression can often convey the profound most effectively, so in retrospect, this quip turned out to be closer to truth than I expected!
Extending his comment, some additional corollaries might include:
- We seldom communicate a concept exactly the way we think we did, based on what was said and how it was expressed.
- We seldom (try to or can) confirm what the other person actually heard.
- We seldom know enough about the other person’s perspective and perception style to know what they understood or interpreted, even if they heard what we said.
As a result, effective communication is not only rare, but very hard work as well!
One key to effective communication is to understand the thinking, communication and perception styles of ourselves, and those around us.
To use myself as an example, here are some factors that influence my perception and communication preferences:
- Learning style – predominantly visual input (learn by reading and seeing), poor auditory processing (show me, don’t tell me), limited kinesthetic learning capacity (limited motor skills, so don’t always “learn by doing”)
- Personality type– MBTI type “INTJ” (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging)
- Tend to be socially withdrawn most of the time
- Tend to be literal, pragmatic, and very specific in communication.
- Tend to avoid conflict – unless I’m the one who initiated it.
- Current state – emotional state, physical factors (fatigue, hunger…), situational context (whatever just happened or was thinking about most recently influences relevance)
- Life experiences – family interactions, beliefs, values, education, personal lessons learned…
Since this blog is not intended as a communications course, this list presents only a few of the factors involved for illustration, but it begins to paint the picture of typical challenges in social interactions.
Now, consider the range of potential combinations of learning styles, personality types, experiences and individual factors. It seems almost incomprehensible that we understand each other at all, if we really think about it!’
To continue this exercise in brain-bending, consider what God might experience if He knows each of us intimately and relates to us as individuals! I find it challenging enough to relate to those I think I already know – spouse, children, friends and coworkers. What would happen if I tried to understand everyone in the world on their terms? Helps keep me humble just thinking about this…