13 January 2010
MAY I COMMUNICATE WITH YOU?
The new found trends these days are making life in general very confusing and difficult to cope with. I’m not talking about the dressing style developed by the youngsters or the increasing amount of information we get from different sources or even the hi-tech gadgets made every day. Most are aware of the cultural differences that exist while communicating; the body language involved, the words used and even the way we say certain lines as well as the facial expressions that accompany it. However, you’d be surprised to know that differences more detrimental and more “different” exists within the family itself. And as the saying goes, “Charity begins at home”, it would be better if we tried to relate to our family members first.
A very familiar scenario may go like this:
Mum: How was school today?
Teenage Son: Hmmmmm….
Teenage Son: Gooorf! Phoookay! (Munching on a sandwich)
Mum: That doesn’t say much!
And the exasperated mother looks on while the sons walks to his room and slams the door. Clearly, slamming the door means sending out the message, “Keep away! I need my space!”
Let’s not be too patronizing on the teenager involved in the above example and say he reacted the wrong way or even on the mother and say that she wasn’t warm or clever enough to actually get a frank and open answer from her own son. At the same time, it’s easy for us as observers to sit back and say it’s the generation gap problem and it will resolve when time passes by. The good news is, most often than not, it does resolve over time and teens grow into mature adults once they feel they’ve got responsibilities they have to carry out on their shoulders. But the bad news is that, there have been many cases in which irreparable damage occurs and difficulties too hard to cope with arise as a result of this “lack of communication”. Moreover, sometimes people are not able to resolve these conflicts and as a result develop some serious problems in life.
Communication is a tricky business and the way we interact with different people is tailor-made according to the person’s temperament and how we are related to the person as well as on how the other person treats us. Clearly, there is no basic rule by which we should act or any basic principle we should follow to interact with the people around us. However, there surely is a basic attitude we could develop to make it less conflicting in nature. The attitude can be summarized in the phrase, “Gently but Firmly”. “Gently” meaning, the prime concern of every individual is to get the message through such that the other person is able to understand what is being said and how the other person feels about something, rather than trying to force an idea on the other person and prove that he is right. Persuasiveness is a good quality but it does no good to the receiver or the speaker to squabble over something that is of no particular significance. For example, a vegetarian may go on endlessly about how cruel non-vegetarians are for killing animals and eating their meat like cannibals whereas, non-vegetarians could retort back by saying that they would do the same if they knew the taste of meat. And besides, plants are living things too so why isn’t it considered cruel to kill and eat them too?
What about cases in which we need to convince the other about an idea? This is where we need to be convincing rather than forceful. This is one method used by participants in debates. Good debaters are alert and know both the pros and cons of their case. They present their arguments in the form of clear-cut facts and give a sincere and genuine expression of their points. They do it in such a way that people would think that they believe in it and they are justified to do so. This reminds me of a debate I was involved in a few years back. We were discussing the poem, “The Last Duchess” and there were two teams – one who fought for the idea that the Duke was wrong in murdering his own wife, the Duchess, merely because he didn’t appreciate the fact that the young lady had a way of charming everyone around her and the other team sided the Duke. Nobody wanted to be on the Duke’s side of course, because it was quite obvious that his evil act could not be justified. One girl in particular stood up and spoke for the Duke in such a manner that one would be convinced that the Duchess was naïve and utterly stupid in her dealings and that she should’ve seen it coming. She said it in a matter-of-fact way and very simply spoke out what the Duke must’ve been feeling. At the end of her say, it was obvious that even girls with the feminist attitude were nodding their heads. Frankly, I was scandalized but impressed!
By the term “Firmly” I mean the ability to stand for what you believe in and not waver but at the same time to develop a broad and flexible mindset that will help you to objectively listen and reason out what others say to you. Understandably, none of us know everything that is happening around us and people can educate you in several different ways. Incidents can teach you hard core lessons and it would be stupid if you do not learn from your mistakes. However, it would also be absurd if one had a fickle mind and is unable to think independently. We are all experimenters in one way or the other. Some are good while others are bad. Those we classify as “good” are those who have clearly experimented on the different possibilities, including the possibility of our concepts or our beliefs being wrong. Strange as it may seem, the modern world demands the need to question and test everything we see, hear and touch…even question the very core of our existence and beliefs at times. (These are areas philosophers seem to get lost and go “insane”.)
Now that we are familiar with the kind of attitude we ought to develop, let’s see how we can apply it in a practical sense. The following tips (which anyone can most probably google search) will help you a long way:
1) Develop the skill of listening:
2) Talk in a way that is not threatening to the person you are talking to or maybe even arguing with.
3) Maintain your composure no matter what because a hot-headed person may seem immature or emotionally unstable. Confidence is an important (and difficult) trait to develop, especially when you are doing the talking and all eyes are on you. Even if you are not sure of what you are expressing, patiently explain where exactly you are confused or need clarification.
Consider the above three points as the key factors that need to be attended to. But it’s not as easy as it seems. For some, it might come out naturally, but for others it might have to be developed and worked on further. But always remember that, “Slow and steady wins the race”.
Posted by Reni at 9:02 AM