Monday, March 06, 2006


Communication Breakdown

I attended a three-hour seminar at work on Friday, about what the company that runs it calls "microinequities". The central message of the seminar isn't anything surprising — it's been well covered for a long time: When we interact with others, it isn't just the words we say that are significant, but also how we say them, and the non-verbal communication that goes on. The result is that we may say the same words to different people, but, as a result of our tone of voice, our facial expressions, our body language, our manner, our eye contact or lack of it... each conversant may receive a different message. They've coined the term "micromessages" for the general case, and classed micromessages into "microinequities" (negative or demeaning micromessages) and "microadvantages" (positive or supportive micromessages).

Despite that this is something I know well, I found the seminar to be interesting and useful, and the three hours seemed to go by quickly. For one thing, the presenter, Stephen Young, was excellent. Perhaps that's to be expected from a professional presenter, but I've seen good and bad professionals in that regard, as with any other profession, and Mr Young is one of the best I've seen. What also kept me interested were the many good examples, and the interactive format for part of the seminar. Through that, he highlighted for us, and brought to the fronts of our minds, things that we may have been paying insufficient attention to. While they showed a video that provided a blatant, "in your face" example to start discussion, Mr Young himself brought out some of the subtleties that really are easy for us to be unaware of, but which have a profound effect nonetheless.

The seminar also points out, and shows by example, how the listener communicates very powerfully as well — it isn't just the speaker who's doing it. With the way in which we listen, we can draw out a speaker or shut him down. Again, this isn't rocket science, but awareness of it is important to effective communication, and effective leadership.

This also ties into the topic of "diversity", because these differences in how we interact with people often relate to ethnic and cultural perceptions, and because how people perceive communication also varies along cultural lines.

For reference, the company is Insight Education Systems, and that link gets you to the description of the seminar I attended. I've no connection with the company, just satisfaction with the seminar.

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