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Monday, October 24, 2011

A Punch in the Nose & Other Good Communication

Talking about “communication” is not good communication. What is good communication? A punch in the nose, that’s what. A punch in the nose is good communication.
If you are repulsed by such a concept, then that also is good communication. Repulsion is an unambiguous response. I made my point.
Let’s do a little defining here. Defining is good communication. It is, in fact, at the heart of good communication, along with a few other practices we are about to explore.
Communication is defined as establishing some kind of understanding, and good communication is defined as establishing mutual understanding with the greatest possible clarity in the shortest possible time. Can’t beat a punch in the nose for that. It establishes clear proof of bad intent in seconds.
If you accept the definition, you cannot quarrel with the example. If, on the other hand, you live by a broader and more decorated concept of good communication, you’ll object.

And that’s the first half of the major problem in most relationships, most organizations and most projects. We start from different assumptions about what is being said, demonstrated or otherwise indicated.
Our individually distinct upbringings, educations, experiences and attitudes inevitably give us varied understandings about even the most common words, phrases and other communication tools.
That’s the innocent half of the problem.
The other half, the working half, is the one that directly causes widespread grief in our relationships. It is the sad fact that we don’t clear up these different understandings before we start acting on the decisions we make based on them.
We rarely bother to find out what someone else really means. We think we already know. Well, we don’t know.
Why should we know what the other person means? We don’t know what WE OURSELVES mean. We just assume we’re right about whatever it is, and fault other parties for believing and acting differently.
This general misapprehension often turns into mistrust. In more active cases, it culminates in a punch in the nose, that climactic and crystal-clear act of communication. Generally, it hardens and deepens the misunderstandings that led to it in the first place.
While miscommunication is everywhere and its causes and nature are complicated, its cure is not all that frequent. But it's relatively attainable.