Jan 04, 2017

The Problem with Communication – Part II

In the introduction to this series of posts, The Problem with Communication – Part I, I discussed the etymology of words in the English language, a few of the processes the human brain uses when receiving information and processing it, and a recent discovery by neuroscience that reveals there are influences that are not seen, but are felt, that affect communication.


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

When you and I share information with someone else, we make the assumption that they understand. That would be communication. As Mr. Shaw so eloquently points out, many times that belief is an illusion. Here’s a humorous, but realistic, example:

A wife asks her husband, “Could you please go shopping for me and buy one carton of milk, and if they have avocados, get six.

A short time later the husband returns home with six cartons of milk.

His wife says:  “Why did you buy six cartons of milk?“

He replied:  “They had avocados.”

How does this difference in understanding of the same information happen? Let’s take a closer look at the human brain and mind.

You have 100 billion neurons in your brain. These neurons have the ability to make more connections than all of the particles in the universe. Your mind doesn’t like confusion, so, in an effort to avoid confusion, it will take those almost limitless number of connections and connect two things that don’t belong together. As an example, you’ve heard songs play and you can’t quite make out what the words being sung are, so, in order to resolve this confusion, you fill-in the blanks with what you think you heard, sometimes with words that make little to no sense! I wonder if you’ve ever filled-in the blanks in a conversation you were having because you weren’t quite sure what you heard? You have a small part of your brain at the Temporal-Parietal junction where Theory of Mind (ToM) exists; your beliefs about God, where you “mind-read” other people’s thoughts, and your desire for proof and validation of ideas are just a few of the things going on there. Have you ever “mind read” someone’s thoughts and been wrong? Or, have you ever rejected an idea because it didn’t meet your criteria for proof, in other words, because it didn’t fit your belief system?

There are two separate “processors” at work in your mind, the conscious and the unconscious. The conscious mind processes information at 40 bytes per second and is focused on the present, what’s happening now. The conscious mind only holds 7 facts (+/- 2) at a time.

The unconscious mind operates at a vastly faster speed and holds an almost infinite amount of information. The estimates range anywhere from 40,000,000 bytes per second (a million times faster than the conscious mind) all the way to 10 Petabytes per second. The unconscious mind is an integral part of your life. It’s what controls your bodily functions; your heart rate, breathing, body temperature, desire for food, addictions, emotions, your imagination, and so much more. It’s involved in learning. Your unconscious mind learns first and then “teaches” your conscious mind, mostly during nighttime sleep. When was the last time you consciously thought about walking, driving a car, or catching a ball? That’s your unconscious mind at work! In fact, in any of those activities, if you consciously think about them, you end up hindering the fluid motion because these have all come to be “natural”, what is called unconscious-competence. The unconscious mind is where your deep-seated beliefs are stored. Your memories are stored in your unconscious mind, as well as your ability to imagine the future, whether the future is the very next moment you see something good or bad happening, or 20 years from now. Your life experiences, your memories, and your beliefs affect how you process information. For instance, the husband in the above humorous situation heard what the filters he’s created in his conscious mind allowed through. To demonstrate just how far our experiences in life and the filters we create affect us; In just the last year, or so, neuroscience has discovered that the only memories we possess that are true to what happened are the ones we don’t remember. What?!! That’s right. The reason is that every time you remember an event or moment in time, it becomes changed and transformed through other experiences you’ve had.

There you have just a few bits of information regarding your brain and mind and how they contribute to communication, both good and poor.

In the next post, I’ll get deeper into the three ways we support our beliefs; Generalization, Deletion, and Distortion. Keep in mind that these posts are leading up to an event soon to be announced in the Dallas/Fort Worth area where I share ways to overcome what could become deficits in the communication we have with others and even with ourselves. I’ll share not only the how-to’s in overcoming communication deficits, I’ll be sharing interesting video clips and role playing exercises to help you communicate more clearly, more quickly, and more effectively.

Change your thoughts. Change your life…quickly!

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+++++++++++++++About Dr. Edward Lewellen++++++++++++++++++++

Dr. Edward Lewellen an expert in creating methodologies for people to learn to use their mind; their beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors, and put them back in control of their lives and become top-producers. He is a Master Executive Coach, leadership and sales expert, and keynote speaker for some of the largest global organizations.

Author of The 90-Second Mind Manager