Thursday, November 5, 2015

Communication Skills

Transmitting & receiving information is the main purpose of communication.

Interpersonal communication is a basic part of our daily lives. During and after a crisis or disaster, it will become an important part of your daily life and could impact your ability to survive. Living and dealing with others makes survival a lot easier, and good communications make it easier to live and deal with them.

There are various theories and category sets for communication styles, which will vary by whichever teacher you listen to. If you research these styles, most of their emphasis is on how to deal with people based on their personalities (passive, aggressive, controlling, supportive, submissive, etc). and how they interact with yours. However, this places the emphasis on the personality and not the communication itself. This may work in a business setting when things are normal, but once the SHTF, most of us aren't really going to care about getting a poor performance review because we hurt someone's feelings. Warning someone that a bridge is washed out shouldn't require a minor in psychology; any method will work as long as the information gets passed on.

My System
I don't recall where I learned the system that I trust, I don't even have a name for it. It is different because it avoids most pop psychology drivel and focuses on HOW we talk to one another instead of WHY we talk that way. This fits into a post-SHTF scenario better in my eyes, because the emphasis is on the communication instead of the personalities involved. No system is perfect, though, and this is just one of many out there. Be aware that there are people who are stuck in one method of communication and will reject any attempts to move them into any other!

In a conversation (usually an exchange of information) there are two “roles” in play. I've seen them described as adult/child, superior/inferior, or teacher/student, but there are only two roles. I will use the adult/child description, but the others work the same way and mean the same thing. The size of the two parties is irrelevant; either side can be one person or a group of people.

Communication can take place between two adults, between an adult and a child (information flowing either way), or between two children. How we talk varies by our role in each of the four scenarios. Roles are fluid, and while someone may be an adult in one conversation, she may not fit that role in another. In complicated or long conversations, roles may change from topic to topic. Dealing with the concept of flexible roles tends to give people who demand rigid categories for everything nightmares, but that's a bonus for this system.
Adult to Adult
Peer to peer communication with societal limits. This is the rarest, yet most efficient form of communication: conversation between equals, with no one person dominating it. Disagreement is allowed, as long as respect is maintained. Treating the other person as an equal takes the power dynamics out of play, and works well unless you have someone who refuses to treat others as equals (arrogant or domineering) or to be treated as an equal (professional victim).

  • a couple working out a budget
  • two co-workers deciding how to cover a shift
  • bloggers writing informative articles
  • experts consulting each other over something new

Adult to Child
Information is presented in such a way that disagreement is not encouraged and may not be allowed. Good for passing on information, this form is not good for discussions. Without discussion, the quality of the information may suffer.

Most government communications are of this type: information tends to flow from the adult to the child, as do requests and demands. Commonly seen between bosses and workers, teachers and students, and news media to consumers.

Telling stories and recounting adventures is an ancient method of passing on information that predates written language, and also falls into this category.

Child to Adult
Information flowing in response to a request or demand as well as requesting information, assistance, or clarification. Disagreement may be allowed, as long as respect is maintained. Talking to your doctor about symptoms, or just about any dealings with the police, fall into this category.

Child to Child
Peer to peer, but with fewer societal limits. Respect is optional, information is not the main goal of the conversation (the conversation itself is the goal), and there is a very good possibility that humor, sarcasm, intentionally painful statements, and honesty will be present. I would guess that a majority of social media communications fall into this category.

This category is good for blowing off steam and relaxing, but not very good for directly passing on information.

Problems arise when one party to the conversation assumes they are in a role that the other party doesn't accept:
  • Having your 12-year-old child think he is the adult in a conversation can and should create a problem (reminders both gentle and otherwise of who pays the bills can help correct this thinking). 
  • Having a roommate that will not get out of the child/child mode when it comes time to pay the bills will be a problem. 
  • Having a public servant of any type automatically assume they are in the parent role in any conversation should cause problems.

I prefer to treat others as equals until they prove me wrong. My ego is not so large that I can't accept the fact that there are people in the world that know more than I do about some things, so I can easily take on the “child” role in a conversation if I need to. I have lived a full and varied life, so I have information that some may find useful -- that's the main reason I write these articles every week. In doing so, I am in an “adult” role. The role that you choose is entirely up to you.

I also know that there are a lot of people in the world who don't want to have conversations that would challenge their beliefs and opinions. I choose to ignore those people when possible, and confront when inevitable. Confrontation is not conversation, however, and is conducted under a completely different set of rules.

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