Had an interesting conversation today. The content of the conversation and the person I had the conversation with is unimportant for this post. It turned out to be a good discussion, and I imagine in the near future I’m going to learn a lot about the topic discussed. But first, I had to open up.
You see, the discussion started with me going on the defensive because my position was being attacked and ridiculed. So much so that I felt that I was personally under attack. My experience is that when someone’s position is attacked, they will more then likely go on the defensive, close up, and not be able to listen to the other person’s point of view, let alone change their mind. All the person ends up doing is defending their own position because it’s under attack. The harsher the attack, the more personal it is, the more you end up defending your position instead of opening up to the possibilities and having a nice lively discussion.
We see it all the time in politics to be sure. Instead of having constructive, lively discussions on the issues, the one side goes on the attack causing the other side to go on the defensive. Nothing gets accomplished. And when it turns personal, it becomes even worse. Not only is the position attacked, but the person as well. You’re busy defending your position and yourself.
And it took me a while to realize that I had closed down. Instead of listening to what the other person had to say, I was searching for the right weapon to fend off the attack, even coming up with “facts” to support my position. But once I realized what I was doing I was able to open up, listen to what the other person had to say, request research articles that I might be able to learn more, potentially grow as a human being, learn something new, and potentially change my position.
There is not one single issue out there that I am 100% on. I have a position, and I can discuss my position. But I’m never 100% positive that I am right. I mean, how could I be. For example, if I have my numbers right, 90+% of scientists are 95+% sure that global warming and global climate change is a critical issue and is human caused. But hey, there’s still that ~5% probability that we could be wrong. Highly unlikely, but possible. The world is a big place with many complex systems interacting together to create our world. And we understand such a small part of that interconnectedness. So how could we possibly be 100%. How could I be so absolute in my positions. I try to approach discussions, debates, conversations in such a way that I will speak to and promote my position, but there is a distinct possibility that I could be wrong. And I’ll be the first to admit it.
So let’s have a lively, constructive conversation on the issues, grow in our understanding and the various perspectives, and be open to the possibilities.
The Art of Communication
Yeah, I know. There’s been plenty written on this topic over the years. I personally wish the art of communication were taught in at least high school. I wish nonviolent communication were taught in high school.
Here’s my philosophy … everyone wants to be heard. Everyone. Not just you. Not just the team lead. Not just the meeting organizer. Not just the professor. And everyone deserves the chance to be heard completely.
The key, in my opinion, to successful communication is … listening. It’s not good enough to just hear someone talking, but to hear what they have to say. It’s not fair to the talker or the listener. That’s what I mean by being heard completely. Listen, don’t interrupt. Sometimes it’s even good to say back to someone what it is you heard them say, just to verify its accuracy. That’s always good in relationship conversations. Don’t think about how you’re going to answer, or what you’re going to say in reply. Don’t even need to react to what they’re saying. Just listen to them, hear them, and try to understand them.
There are some who love to hear themselves talk. They just talk and talk and talk. They interrupt. They don’t let people finish what they have to say. And they make it difficult for people to get a word in edgewise. They make it really difficult for others to be heard, let alone be heard completely. This is unfortunate, whether in a classroom or a meeting room. Hey dude, it’s not all about you.
In an academic environment, yes, there is a teacher, or professor, or TA, who’s job it is to teach. But there are students who want to learn, they want to ask and answer questions, they want to express opinions, they want to convey ideas and thoughts. Just think how rich the conversation would be if everyone had a chance to be heard.
Meetings are my big frustration. Meetings are between 2 or more people. Not just one person. More then likely, everyone in that meeting is very busy, has a lot to do, a lot on their plate. I know I do. And I know that I want to get that meeting over with in as efficient a way as possible so that I can get back to work.
I will be the first to admit that I am not the best at meetings. I am easily distracted and sometimes end up pulling others into my distraction … SQUIRREL. And I promise that I will work really hard at that.
For project meetings, I am very interested in finishing the meetings as quickly as possible, not to take up everyone else’s time, and even try to finish up early. I promise that I will not discuss things in meetings that not everyone needs to be a part of. Not everyone needs to discuss every aspect of every part of the project. So if just 2 or 3 people out of 10 need to discuss something, they can take it offline and discuss it where they aren’t wasting everyone else’s time.
In a recent meeting there were quite a few questions asked during the meeting. I personally felt that just asking those questions was good enough for the meeting. Jot down the question, make sure you know who needs to participate in the discussion and answering of the question, and move on. No need to discuss the actual questions in the meeting. That’s definitely not the case in every meeting or for every question. It was just that in this meeting, which usually lasts a little over an hour on a good day, the questions were being asked, and then discussed and answered by just the 2 people who needed to participate in the discussion. The others in the meeting, including me, just did something else, like actually getting word done for the project.
So here’s my check list.
- Talk only when it’s your turn to talk. Don’t hog the entire conversation.
- Let other’s talk, be heard, and be heard completely. Don’t interrupt them. Don’t even do the “Mmhmm” thing, while they’re talking. Let them finish. Focus on what they’re saying, not on how you’re going to respond. Even if you disagree with them 100%.
- Only talk about what is relevant. Don’t talk about what you’re doing for another project that is unrelated to this project or class.
- Only talk about what the entire group needs to talk about. Take smaller conversations offline and include only those people that need to be included.
- Just because a question is asked, doesn’t mean it needs to be discussed or answered in the meeting. Again, take it offline and include only those people that need to be included.
- And the very most important point … listen. Hear completely what someone has to say.
Oh, one other thing, and something else that I’m going to work really hard at. Pay attention. Even if you have to pretend that you are paying attention. Don’t work on something else, don’t check email, don’t have your nose buried in your iPad, and take off those Google Glasses. I’ve heard people say that they are hearing what is being said while they’re working on something else … but I don’t believe it. Maybe it’s because I can’t do that. Look up, pay attention, and participate fully.
What if people recognized that words are just that, words. They are bits displayed on a computer screen in the shape of letters, or scribbles and scratches on a piece of paper, or vibrations emanating from a person’s vocal chords that are recognized as speech by the recipient, and so on. They are an agreed upon manifestation shared by a group of people to express thought.
And what if I could say the words “Happy Holidays” and it means that from the bottom of my heart I express my desire that you have a joyous and loving celebration of whatever your belief is of this season? My intention is to express my heartfelt hope that you enjoy this time of the year in whatever fashion you chose to celebrate it. The words are a simple, rudimentary manifestation of that intention, of that desire.
What if you could say to a Jewish friend “Merry Christmas” and, instead of that being interpreted to mean that I look to enslave the world by forcing someone to follow a particular religious belief system and that all other belief systems are wrong and anyone who follows said belief system should be taken out back behind the chemical shed and shot, that they interpret it instead to be a heartfelt desire from me to them to have a joyous celebration of their belief system, that I’m expressing my love for them and their family, that my intention is purely one of love.
What if a Jewish friend could say Happy Chanukah to you, and instead of you taking offense to that and thinking that they are trying to convert you to their way of thinking and belief system, that instead you interpret it for what it really is, that they are wishing you the love and joy that they share during their celebration onto you, that they love you and hope you too share in the love.
I am neither Jewish nor Christian, Muslim nor Buddhist, or anything. Yet I take absolutely no offense when someone says to me Happy Chanukah, or Merry Christmas, or wishes me a joyous Al-Hijira, or simply says Happy Holidays. Thank you for your well wishes!
So it’s not a War on Christmas, as some would say. It’s not an attack on any one person’s beliefs or intended to be negative in any way.
The words are simply a manifestation of the intention of wishing me the best. And for that, I am eternally grateful. I look at the meaning of the words and the meaning of their relationship with the person saying the words.
With that said, I hope you all had a wonderful, loving, joyous Winter Solstice, the re-birth of the physical sun as the days become longer, and the re-birth of the spiritual sun within you.