Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Philosophy of Communication

On the day before my wedding I received plenty of advice on marriage.  The one that has stuck with me the longest, and I think is probably correct, should be applied to more than just marriage.

Uncle Jim, Jessica's great-uncle, said the secret to marriage is Communication.

I have known Jessica since we were in the fifth grade, 18 yrs now.  We dated for 2 years and were engaged for 4 years.  We maintained a long distance relationship for that entire time.  I think I can honestly say that my wife and I have a handle on a strong relationship.

The secret to success, as Uncle Jim said, is Communication.

Good advice--right?  It is only good advice if you know what Communication means.

In Izac's Dictionary of Ordinary Terms:
Communication = Talking + Listening + Understanding

For this discussion, Talking is done by the "first person," and Listening by the "second person."

Talking is the act of convening through words or gestures explicit or implicit ideas.  Talking is easy for most people.  The words or gestures a person uses are the manifestation of ideas.  Using the correct words or gestures go far in successful Communication.  Placing those words or gestures in an environment that clarify their meaning is just as important--the words or gestures must be in context.  The first person must create the context.

Listening is not passive.  It must be active.  Listening is when the second person in the communication adds meaning to the words or gestures from the first person.  This part leads to Understanding.  Listening is difficult.  Here the second person must discover the ideas intended by the first person's words or gestures.  There must be a meeting of the minds, to use a legal term of art.  Words have double means--sometimes triple.  It is important for the second person to put those words into the context given by the first person; just as the first person must use adequate words and gestures to ensure the context is there.

Understanding is when the words or gestures of the first person are given the correct meaning by the second person.  This is where most Communication breaks down.  Both parties can perform their parts correctly but still fail to understand each other.  Either the listener has not grasped the correct context and thus meaning; or the Talker has failed to adequately convey the ideas.

When the dialogue consists of Talking, Listening, and Understanding, then there is Communication.  Unfortunately, much of the world forgets to seek Understanding or forgets that Listening is active or that Talking must include context.

Anyways, the secret to Communication is talking, listening and understanding.  All must be often and in a give-and-take format.