Communicating in a Changing World

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” – Peter Drucker

Reflection 2_AGauer

IC Textbook: Chapter 5: Verbal Communication; Cooperative Development; Hamilton, Chapter 10, “Listening – The Art of Second Person”

The very first section of Chapter 5 in the IC textbook where it discusses linguistics and the basic structure of language, reminded me of the importance of actually shedding light on this subject matter due to its correlation to prejudice and discrimination. How many of us take into awareness that we are already judging someone based on the basic sound units that they were born into? How many of us actually think of the phonemes that exist in each language, and how we unconsciously acquire them as children?

Verbal communication is much like the skin of the human body in that it is one of the ways used to categorize our experience with people. Like the skin, it influences our initial impressions of people and place. Unless we actually tune into our brains at the time of exchange, we are instantaneously putting people in their “place” for various reasons – how do we remember them? Did we find a connection? Etc.

The chapter goes on to speak about semantics, which I find particularly important across cultures because while we may share the same denotative meaning of a word, we may not have the same connotative meanings. This creates a very complex world in language and affects our perceptions and behaviors on so many levels.

Furthermore, the pragmatics of a language – how it’s actually used in society – illustrates its impact on majority vs. minority, societal norms in what is accepted or not. It has the power to perpetuate a kind of stigma placed on sub-cultural groups with languages that remain “substandard” as in Pidgin or Ebonics.

Learning these aspects of language in relation to communication and power, and how it affects our learning of the world and our place in it is extremely crucial.

The Chapter on Listening: The Art of Second Person in Hamilton’s Everything is Workable beautifully describes listening as “an entryway from one world into another, or “the miracle of we”. When our perspective shifts from “I” to “You”, we engage in a “dance of sameness and difference” where we can acknowledge our cohesion and appreciate our uniqueness from one another. I love this because it is so true.

Letting go of “I” = free fall into open space. I admire what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche says about listening as an act of letting go. “The bad news is that we’re in a free fall. The good news is that there’s no bottom” – when there are no reference points to hold on to, no images or judgments, where nothing is assumed or taken for granted. A lot of the times, I notice we can see this practice of listening in eastern thought. This body of knowledge ought to be shared in our classrooms early on.

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