Wednesday, August 5, 2009

47) Skills

"A relationship will be only as good as its communication." John Powell

Post 46 gave us an insight into the importance of relationships. John Powell puts things in perspective when he writes that relationships are dependent on communication. That is why communication skills are a priority not just in schools and later in the work place, but in daily life, in the home and with the family.

In simple terms, effective communication is understanding and being understood. Our children should clearly understand what others convey to them, and should make themselves understood when they convey a thought. To do that they should think clearly. Remove clutter and stick to the essentials. Then they should learn to convey those clear thoughts in simple, short sentences. Complex sentences complicate matters. Communication is based on thoughts, and thoughts spring from the person - the quality of the person, determining the quality of thoughts. The child's words are only the attire that her thoughts wear. So, emphasis should be on the thoughts of the child - kind, sharing and forgiving thoughts; not unkind, selfish and vengeful thoughts. It is obvious that communication either builds or breaks relationships, through the sharing and interpretation of thoughts. The more fulfilling the communication, the stronger the relationship; the more suspect the communication, the more fragile the relationship.

A few additional points emerge from this basic tenet: the child should know that in communicating with family, teachers and friends she has to be clear and brief in expressing herself, and show respect for the other person's point of view. Saint Ignatius of Loyola placed much emphasis on the other person's point of view, when he wrote: "Enter through their door, to leave through yours". When our children defy these basics, they will suffer from fractured relationships. The joy of life will be lost.

We are often led to believe that a person who has a way with words(skill)is a good communicator. Thinking people differ. They maintain that communication is like an iceberg. The small visible part of the iceberg is the skill. The big submerged part is the mass of beliefs, attitudes, values and habits; in short, his character. If the mass disintegrates, the tip is of no consequence. So, word carpentry is a distinct advantage only when the character of the person is like solid timber.

"The road to the heart, is the ear." Voltaire

The most difficult part in transacting with people, is to open a closed mind, because
the door to the mind is shut, with the handle to the door on the inside. Often we confront such minds. Then it is best to listen, because they will not listen. At other times, people are eager to share their thoughts and feelings, but we will not listen, because we are busy saying our bit.

President Roosevelt theorized that very few people listen. At a party, he decided to test out his theory. To people who came up to him, he muttered: "I murdered my grandmother this morning". Most replied: "How lovely, continue with the good work".
Only one diplomat, with a twinkle in his eye joked: "I am sure she had it coming to her". We are so caught up in our own thoughts and words, that we do not have the time or inclination to listen to what others have to say. Besides the lack of listening skills, there is another reason for our failure to listen - PACE. We normally speak at the rate of 125-150 words per minute. The mind can handle nearly 500 words per minute. Since the mind works at a faster pace, it tends to wander.

Listening is not believing. Believing is proportionate to credibility. The higher the credibility of the speaker, the higher the believability. Going beyond the ear,
listening enlists the heart and the head. With the ear we take in the words; in the heart, we make space for the speaker; and with the head we closely follow his words,
encourage more disclosure and gently prod, not just for words, but more importantly
for feelings; to lead us to believe the truth.

Listening is not solving the problem, but a step in that direction. It is being with the speaker, without becoming the speaker. Listening says" "I am not going to take over your problem. You need to be clear in your mind to understand the problem. I know you are capable of doing that". It means, having the courage to be part of the transformation process. When our children gain listening skills, they will stop hearing from us and teachers, the accusing words: "You are not listening".

"He who guards his lips, guards his soul." Proverbs 13:3

When we rearrange LISTEN, we get SILENT. Good listening means being silent when the other speaks. Communication is misunderstood as talking all the time. Listening and being silent are integral parts of communicating. That is why Carlyle writes: "Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves". Great things happen to us and others, when we reflect in silence. A smart listener coined an acronym in SOUL. S, for silence; O, for observe; U, for understand; and L, for listen, was how he expanded SOUL. He said that if we LISTEN in SILENCE to OBSERVE and UNDERSTAND, we are communicating with our souls. Should we not help our children find their SOUL?

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