Creating a space for communication

Lockdown has give me the opportunity to observe, sense, and reflect about how we communicate and collaborate. Here are some observations;

  1. Creating a common space for cultivating a shared understanding (not necessary agreement) is the most important objective of any communication, especially for those who want to collaborate and co-create.
  2. Listening is not enough. One must observe, feel, empathise and try to imagine what someone means.
  3. Spoken words do not provide a complete picture of what someone means. Words are shaped by different cultures, professional disciplines, and personal orientation. One must encourage people to communicate with different modes of communication and be genuinely curious about and ask questions to better understand what they mean.

4. I have found that I am more effective in being understood when I start my communication with “picture this” or “imagine this” and then ask “what do you see?” or “how do you feel?”

5. As much as video chat is efficient, and productive use of time, it lacks one key component of interpersonal communication. It fails to create a sense of a shared space and exchange of energy. If I cannot send or receive constructive energy, then my communication is compromised.

6. Sensing silence and allowing silence during communication enables reflection and empathic listening, observing and sensing. Uncomfortable silence is a critical part of the process of creating a space for shared understanding.

7. There is a difference between expressing a different perspective and arguing. Arguing creates unwelcome energy. On the other hand. the outcomes are richer when difference of perspectives are given time and space to live unresolved until there is either an agreement or accommodation.

8. It never helps to respond with a no. Even worse, it does not help to ignore a disagreeable opinion. It is best to acknowledge the disagreement, and then express an alternative opinion. By saying “I hear you, and I have a different perspective…”

9. Another method I find useful is- before disagreeing with someone’s idea or a belief, if I ask “why do you think so?” Or “Can you help me understand your idea or opinion please” I get the opportunity to consider the other person’s perspective before committing (in my mind) to disagreeing with it. It also sends the other person a message that I have considered her/ his perspective before presenting mine.

10. Lockdown has created a distance, as well as deprived us of communication with post it notes, white boards and flip charts. Engineers have invented alternate technology tools. However these tools, though efficient, lack intuitiveness for some while at the same time they bring excitement to those who are comfortable with software tools. That creates inequality in the natural comfort of communication and creates technology fatigue for some people.

11. Human touch is extremely important. Being present in a moment is very important. No matter how advanced technology gets, there is no substitute to being in the moment with the people you want to create an understanding with. If we relied too much on technology for remote communication, I am afraid we will create emotionally deprived and socially dysfunctional people.

Let us not compromise our natural instinct for empathy for the sake of efficiencies.

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