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Monday
Jun272016

HUMANIZING YOUR COMMUNICATION #4: HELPING UNIQUENESSES MEET

 

 

DNA, like fingerprinting, is an effective crime-fighting tool because it identifies uniqueness with almost 100% accuracy. 

Your fingerprints and DNA are not the only markers of your uniqueness.  Across the 7.4 billion people now inhabiting the earth, there is only one you.  Only one person with exactly your facial features, walk, tone of voice, family history, cultural identifiers, and experiences.

When you want to communicate effectively, it's crucial to remember this fact.  And intentionally to act on it.

Author Howard Thurman was keenly aware of the importance of uniqueness, which he called "the genuine."  He wrote,

Now there is something in everybody that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in other people. . . .  I must wait and listen for the sound of the genuine in you.  I must wait.  For if I cannot hear it, then in my scheme of things, you are not even present.  And everybody wants to feel that everybody else knows that she is there. . . .  Now if I hear the sound of the genuine in me, and if you hear the sound of the genuine in you. . . I see in me what you see in me and the wall that separates and divides will disappear. . . because the sound of the genuine makes the same music. (Speech at Spelman College, 5.4.80)  www.bu.edu/thurman/about/dr-thurman/

I'm not sure that "the wall that separates and divides will disappear" every single time, as Thurman suggests.  I am sure, though, that when I "wait and listen for the sound of the genuine in you" and "hear [and put on the table between us some of] the sound of the genuine in me," the contact between us will be direct, impactful, and it will be a moment that matters. http://www.taosinstitute.net/ume-communicating-in-moments-that-matter

I'd like for more of my communicating to matter in this way.  Would you?  Would you like to see fewer brutalizing rants on your favorite social media?  Would you like to hear fewer global attacks of "Muslims," "illegals," "the 1%," "blondes," and "Blacks"?  Would you like access to fewer sound-bites and more thoughtful reflections?  Would you appreciate more genuineness at work and less phony bragging and insincere approval?  Do you wish your family could actually talk about its sickest secrets?

It's simple to do this. Simple, and definitely NOT easy.

The first step is to remember the 4 main qualities that help make each of us unique:  our Choices, Reflections, Emotion-Spirit-Personality, and Mindfulness.  When you intentionally get relevant parts of these four on the table between you and your conversation partners, you're helping uniquenesses meet.

Take In these four qualities by first managing the expectations you carry into the communication event.  Learn to postpone your own agenda so you can actually listen for "the genuine" in the other.  Watch and listen for what she's doing nonverbally.  Is she keeping her distance?  Looking directly at you or over your shoulder?  Sounding impassioned or disinterested?  The point is not to play "gotcha" with what you notice but to use it to sense how she's feeling and how present (mindful) she is to you.  Also listen actively not just passively.  Encourage her to "Say more."  Ask for an example that makes her point.  Paraphrase her and check to see if you've got her right.

At the same time, Give out relevant parts of these 4 qualities by explaining the choices that lead you to your opinion and sharing some of your priorities--"This is really important to me," or "I don't have a dog in this fight."  Express some of how you feel.  You don't have to wear your heart on your sleeve, but share some of your hesitation, excitement, frustration, or eagerness.  When it fits, talk about your reflections--changes in your thinking or second thoughts.  And put aside your smart phone or even turn it off so you can be present to him.

The point is to intentionally work to help uniquenesses meet.  You know what this feels like.  You've experienced it with a best friend, parent, grandparent, or lover.  You've even experienced it in groups of more than two--a work team, task group, or hang-out buddies.  When it happens, the people involved experience what some call "the feeling of being felt."  The other(s) "see the genuine in you" and you sense some of "the genuine in them."

Sometimes your efforts will fail.  This is why I said it's NOT simple.  The other person is afraid of or uncomfortable with this level of intimacy.  She doesn't have the time.  He's been burned before.  The cultural differences are too great.  They may change the subject, push you away, or leave.

So why take the time and trouble?  Why take the risk?  The big answer is that the quality of your lives is at stake.  Both yours and the others'.  Humans are social beings, and this means that our lives are enriched by humanizing contacts with others.  The more you keep your distance--on social media, at work, at home--the more flat, thin, minimally-productive, and uninteresting your life will be.  The more you can help make your communicating as personal as possible, the more the opposite can happen.

The more specific answer is that whatever you're talking about, the conversation will go better.  Research shows that the best communication in learning situations is as personal as possible.www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674013254  The most helpful communication in health care contexts is as personal as possible. www.personcenteredmedicine.org/ The best way to manage others and to work together well is to communicate as personally as possible.  us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/person-centered-leadership/book5625

This kind of contact is not always happy, satisfying, or warm and fuzzy.  But every time it's fully human, it's helpful.  Praise is more appreciated when it's as personal as possible, and problems get solved best this way, too.

If you want to know more, I explain how to help uniquenesses meet in the first 31 pages of Personal Communicating and Racial Equity bit.ly/PersCommRacialEq.