One of the numerous observations about myself and how I have changed over time is that I recall being quite a good debater, of course this could be a fabrication created by the passage of time, but that is my recollection. This then begs the question about what I consider a ‘good’ debater, and in my mind I tend to think that this title applies to someone that can coherently get across their perspective on a given topic, and that the opinion that is expressed is often so sound in its logic that it is almost impossible to question. On writing that explanation, it now makes me wonder about my earlier perspective of myself as a debater of any kind. I think that maybe it is more accurate to say that I often put over my opinion in such a matter-of-fact way that people either simply disregarded me as an imbecile or simply did not care enough about the topic to feel that it warranted an argument with me.
I have recently listened my way through an audiobook from The Great Courses lecture series on Effective Communication and whilst I do not consider that I have necessarily improved much, or indeed that I actually recall much of what I heard. I think it does sound that my earlier self, and indeed my current self, are not necessarily different from the majority, in that I engage/d in some run-of-the-mill communication issues.
I do not want to get into a critique of the lectures themselves, but I think that it is a worthwhile objective for me to engage in communication in which I follow some rules.
1. Pay attention to the meaning of the words used by the other person. To attempt to understand their perspective, and emotions, without the assumption that I know what they are saying, thinking or experiencing prior to asking more involved questions and reducing any ambiguity.
2. Not attempting to get the other person to think the same way as me, and going through the process of persuasion to coax them into my line of thought.
3. Recognising and withdrawing from the parent and child ‘voices’. Instead using the rationality of the adult ‘voice’. This framework is called Transactional Analysis, and more information can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transactional_analysis. This does not mean mimicking stages of development in vocal manner and gestures, but can be seen as how we view those roles ourselves. When I think of parent it is often a controlling persona, a child is an irresponsible and flippant persona, and an adult is a wiser, more reasoned persona.
4. Try to avoid judgements, especially emotional judgements. Things to look out for are the use of terms like never and always in a conversation in regards to I always … or you never … This is usually a massive generalisation and rarely results in positive forward movement in the conversation/argument.
There were a lot more nuggets of thought provocation in the 12 hours of the lectures, and for the most part I found it very insightful. So I will try and remember what I can and apply some of the lessons contained to see how they work out. Sara has also mentioned a few things that I am working on, such as when I get a little heated in a ‘debate’ I have the tendency to stop blinking, and my voice rises. i feel that it is useful to get feedback of those around me, as they see behaviours and actions that I take as normal, and call me out on them. The challenge for me is to accept that these things are not being said as a put down or an ego destroyer, but simply as observations, from which I can decide if they enhance my life or not. In this stage I can still feel my defensive walls come up as soon as a comment is made, and this is an area of active and difficult change for me. We will see how that works out. 🙂
Do you consider yourself a good communicator? Do you have any tips or methods that can help people like me (gods help them)? Do you have any stories of communication gone bad? Please let me know!