Communication – The Problem?

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‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’ George Bernard Shaw

Underpinning every difficulty or problem is poor communication in one form or another. Language, cultural or gender differences aside, a multitude of blocks combine to distort communication, create misunderstandings and even conflict.

It is one of the hardest things to get inside the mind of another individual. And it is even harder if there is no dialogue or discussion. This is the case whatever the context. One of the fundamental causes of this confusion is the enigma of personality. People are very different, more different than you could ever imagine, and it is only through talking together that any clue to an individual’s mindset can be found, or any reality testing by hearing what mutually you have to say, can take place. Or indeed, any resolution.

‘We don’t see the world as it is, but as we are’.

Anaïs Nin​

The interviews with Shamima Begum, the London school girl who left to join IS in Syria in 2015, have been interesting examples of the flipping of the coin of perception. To people in the UK, the West, her opinion that Western air strikes were ‘a fair justification’ for the Manchester Arena suicide bombings is bizarre. But she is unrepentant. From her, and the IS viewpoint, it is logical. She has failed to see where the IS stance comes from and that beheadings and other atrocities are fine from their perspective! Others, of course, think very differently.

This is an extreme example, but it illustrates how people get stuck in a thinking rut for whatever reason: indoctrination, personality or belief.

It is clear therefore that cultivating the skill of deliberately getting inside the mind of those whose thinking or mindset is different from your own is incredibly worthwhile. It does not mean that you necessarily change your view but it does mean that there is a chance of getting nearer the truth, if this approach is adopted deliberately. There are styles of personality – often appropriate for certain professions – where the need to be right is a very powerful driver, almost unconsciously so. However, sticking rigidly to your OWN truth, unmodified by any understanding of where other people are coming from, so that you can test reality, serves no one, certainly not the need for sound answers.

In investigating incidents, for example, an awareness of personality styles and working together in teams, discussing issues around a Storyboard, facilitates the drive towards ‘truth’. This approach helps uncover what one person alone may not have found because it really is too easy to agree with yourself!

Advice? Communication is all. And try to talk. The Lone Ranger never works!  The answer may well lie ‘between the lines’! Cultivate the open mind!

Now, ‘Tell me what you think – then try to tell me what the really smart person on the other side of the room is thinking’. Practise that!