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 [p26], 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!
To read the whole story on communication, buy the September 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing
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