Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Communication - It is a two way street

I have been reading a re-published HBR article, 'Barriers and Gateways to Communication' by Carl Rogers and F. Roethlisberger from 1952. What is telling is that although we exhibit very complex behaviours, we really do run to a very simple set of rules - trust, respect, love, acknowledgement and so forth are the cornerstones of building our self-esteem, which builds efficacy, which builds performance, which builds self-esteem...

This 'culture' then becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy if you look at Banduras' notion of triadic reciprocal determinism - Behaviour, Environment and Personal Factors all act against one another (B>E>P>...), or that of Lewins' Behaviour is a function of Personality and Environment (B=f[P+E]). This social psychology/learning theory demonstrates that you need all factors working together to gain an optimal result.

So communication is more than speaking, it's more than what you say but what you do and how you do it. Only when these are consistent do you create an holistic environment that supports high-levels of performance.

As a new father to two radiant girls I am keenly aware that although my eldest might not 'listen' to me, she sure emulates our behaviour as parents. On my side I have been trying to be an 'active' listener, one that neither dismisses, or invalidates my child's views, and at the other end of the scale, not try to solve her problems, but to guide her critical thinking skills so she can develop the capacity to solve them by herself. At the heart of this is the ability to listen without judgement, to try and see the issue from her perspective rather than mine. By doing this I hope to keep our channels of communication 'open'.

Sounds simple, but again the paradox is that this is so hard to emulate. It is more comfortable and safe to see things from our perspective - to evaluate - to not risk upsetting our schema. In the article the Monk in the Lab, there was an concept that the glass is neither half-empty, not half-full. We need to see it as it is, not shoehorn ideas into our preconceptions.

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