Jan 16, 2017

The Problem with Communication – Part IV

(Before proceeding, if you haven’t already, I invite you to read the three previous posts in this series where you can find additional information on The Problems with Communication, Part I, Part II, and Part III, by clicking on each one.)

When you look at the picture above, you see that the dots seem to spontaneously move and change from black-to-white and white-to-black. Communication can be like that. You can be in a discussion with someone and you seem to be tracking along the same “frequency” and, all of the sudden, it becomes an Allan Greenspan moment, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”. Like those dots that seemingly spontaneously move and change color, understanding and communication become elusive.

If you’re not already familiar with General Semantics, I want to introduce you to this wonderful methodology of helping people understand that the world we perceive and describe is not usually the “real” world. As a General Semantics saying states it: “The map is not the territory”. Here is the flow of information as we receive and process it:

  • Event – Something happens

  • Senses – we use all of our senses to experience the event
    Do our senses tell us everything about the event?

  • Evaluate – based on our past experiences
    Is our evaluation always the same as what really happened in the event?

  • Meaning – based on our judgments, feelings attitudes, reactions, behaviors, inferences, etc. Is the meaning we give to the event the true meaning?
  • As you can see, the questions attached to each part of the flow help us realize that our “map” may not be what the “territory” really is like. For instance, did you realize that we have 2 Terabytes of information coming in at any given moment and that our 5 senses are only able to process 11 Megabytes of that information, 5%? And, did you know that of the 500 most commonly used words in the English language that there are more than 14,000 definitions of those words? You can begin to understand how easy it is for our “map” and those of others won’t be the same.

    General Semantics helps us discover how we (unconsciously) miscommunicate and how to fix many of those problems. Here are the five major areas General Semantics covers and I’ll discuss only two in this post:

  • Allness
  • Time Binding
  • Bypassing
  • Language and Culture
  • Symbols
  • Let’s take “Allness” first. If you remember, in the last post on this topic (Part III) I discussed Generalization. Allness and Generalization have some common features. In fact, Allness includes the use of Universal Qualifiers, like Always, Never, All, None, etc. Contributors to Allness are; Being unaware of abstraction, abstraction of different details (Availability Bias), evaluating groups on the basis of individuals, and being closed-minded. Have you ever known a person who was a Know-It-All? That’s the kind of people who use Allness to a great degree. How can Allness be mitigated? Three simple techniques will help:

    1) Develop genuine humility. Knowing that we are perceiving only 5% of everything going on around us and that technology and knowledge is changing an exponentially faster rate that ever before in human history should make all people take pause when they think they know everything there is to know about a subject. Another General Semantics saying I fully appreciate is, “You can never know everything about anything”.

    2) Add etcetera. This is another acknowledgement that there is always more to know and it shows the willingness to accept additional insights and information.

    3) Finally, there is the need to removing the “All-Wall”. How? By following these best-practices:

  • When receiving information: postpone evaluation of the message
  • When constructing meaning: set aside bias and prejudice
  • Before responding: clarify meaning by asking questions
  • Second, let’s take a brief look at “Time-Binding”. Time-Binding is when we use language and symbols to organize and pass along knowledge from one generation to the next, as well as within a generation. Humans are the only creatures on earth who have this ability and it’s the reason we have advanced so significantly and rapidly. We also Time-Bind when we label someone or something. The person or thing becomes what we label it as. We use Time-Binding in our day-to-day experiences, to form opinions and beliefs, and create our “reality” through the words we use. So, for example, if we label ourselves, or someone else, as “Fat”, then we identify ourselves or the other person as being a fat person and all the thoughts and behaviors associated with being fat:
    “I am fat”
    “I eat like a fat person”
    “I exercise like a fat person”
    “I think like a fat person”
    “Therefore, I must BE a fat person”

    How can we overcome negative Time-Binding and labeling?

  • Continually test assumptions and beliefs. What may have been true a few years, months, weeks, or even days before may no longer be true.
  • Revise assumptions and beliefs as appropriate, knowing that you do have options and choices
  • Hold conclusions and judgments tentatively. Remember Allness?
  • Make a special effort to become more aware of hidden or unstated assumptions

    I’ll cover these and the rest of these subjects of Bypassing, Language and Culture, and Symbols in the upcoming event that I’ll be announcing the date, time and location soon. Let me know if this event is of interest to you, and maybe even your entire company, as I’d like to get a feel for what areas of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex might be most convenient.

    In Part V of The Problems with Communication, I’ll discuss some high-level Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) language patterns and their effect on everyday life and work.

    Change you thoughts. Change your life…quickly!

    Please feel free to comment and share this post!

    +++++++++++++++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