September 2013 issue: Communication is not just about words

Understanding the nuances of communication will help you bring great clarity to all your relationships, which in turn will bring great fulfilment to your life

Complete Wellbeing September 2013 issue cover -- Communication
September 2013 issue

I once heard a hilarious anecdote about Hollywood superstar Harrison Ford. In 2002, when Ford turned 60, he had just started dating Calista Flockhart [of Ally McBeal fame]. Flockhart needed some diapers for a new baby boy she had recently adopted. To help her out, the Star Wars hero decided to run the errand and visited a supermarket, where he asked for disposable diapers…Without blinking, the store attendant directed Ford to the adult diapers section.

I am not sure if this really happened but the anecdote serves to remind us of the pitfalls of our everyday conversations. We communicate almost without thinking, as if on auto-pilot, not realising that there’s so much more to it than mere words. The context, the tone, the situation—all contribute to the message we’re trying to get across. No wonder misunderstandings abound. And often, they blow completely out of proportion, leaving those involved in a state of confusion and bewilderment.

So long as we can clear up any confusion, the situation can be salvaged. But that’s not always possible. In fact, more often than not, communication that has gone awry only gets worse. Most of our relationship issues—in our personal as well as professional lives—stem from problems in communication. What’s really frustrating is that even when people agree at the core, the difference in their conversational styles creates confusion and heartburn.

No one likes to be misunderstood or to misunderstand another. Understanding the nuances of communication will help you bring great clarity to all your relationships, which in turn will bring great fulfilment to your life.

In Talking Sense, Deborah Tannen, who is the author of many books and articles about how the language of everyday conversation affects relationships, touches upon the various dimensions of communication. She helps us understand that how we say something is as important, if not more, as what we say. Using insightful examples, she explains the influence of our conversation styles on our communication and what we can do to prevent unintended communication.

To us humans, communication is lifeblood. Without it, all progress will stop. It’s time we stop taking it for granted and gave it the importance it deserves. With Deborah’s help, you can get started today!

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Manoj Khatri
Manoj Khatri considers himself a student and teacher of the wisdom of love. He is also a writer-editor and has written on topics ranging from strategic marketing and business management to art, culture and even philosophy. His more than 1200 published stories—articles, interviews, full-length features—have appeared in some of the leading newspapers and magazines of India. A certified cognitive behavioural therapist, he works as a personal counsellor too. He is the author of What a thought!, a critically acclaimed book based on powerful ideas of some of the greatest thought leaders. Manoj runs Complete Wellbeing and believes that "peace begins with me".

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