It is difficult to communicate. There are all sorts of barriers to sharing ideas with one another. Our ability to understand is based largely on the way we navigate these barriers.
A lot of people get frustrated when someone doesn’t understand what they are saying. This has happened with my wife a few times over the last couple of days. I will be on the phone and try to communicate something via gestures. My wife, Kylie, interprets those gestures differently than I intended and we are in a real twist of confusion.
This doesn’t just go away when we are able to speak. Only 7% of what we hear are the words spoken by others – 55% is body language and another 48% is tone. We are biased in our perceptions and so is everyone else. It is a wonder we communicate anything at all.
Acknowledge and Discover
The first step to overcoming these barriers is to find them and name them. We have to understand what values and experiences have led to our biases. What preferences do we assume and how is our worldview pulling the message like an undercurrent at sea?
Most of us try to plow through with our messaging. We ram it down each other’s throats, trying to get to clarity by force. We dismiss the perceptions of others as foolish. They need to get over it and hear what I am saying! We adopt victim mentality as we blame others for their inability to hear, all the while refusing to take ownership of our part to play.
The importance of our message helps determine how badly we will fight for clear communication. Most of what we say is not that important to us. It’s just important that I am saying something. I just want others to shut up and hear whatever it is I am spouting.
We don’t even know what we are trying to say. And if our own validation matters more than the message, we will view communication as an exercise in receiving praise rather than communicating truth.
If, however, our message is most important, we will navigate the mediums, consider the barriers, and try as best we can to get the truth of the message across to others.
We need a vision for our communication, a truth we are trying to get across. Otherwise, we are just squawking birds taking turns impatiently.
What is your message? What do you really want to say? Why does it matter to you? Why does it matter to the listener? A commitment to the message turns communication into a mission – sharing something external – rather than an exercise in self-validation.
People are different and complex. We want so desperately for someone to truly know and understand us, even though we have a hard time truly understanding ourselves. Yet it rarely dawns on us to consider others worthy of the same treatment. We are rarely concerned with understanding and valuing others.
Communication is an exercise of community. It unites us. It brings us together. The barriers are the differences between us. Communication, in and of itself, is an attempt to lessen those barriers. Don’t be surprised when you face barriers, the fact they are there is the reason you are communicating to begin with!
Address the barriers with patience and humility.