Communication as Cooperation

phonecallby David Bohl

Communication is a vital skill that we must use all day, every day. We communicate with co-workers, managers, customers, family, and friends multiple times in a day, and cannot function in today’s world without communicating. We should, therefore, seek to maximize our effectiveness when communicating with the people in our lives.

But what is communication? Webster’s dictionary defines it as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.

Communication, however, is much more than that. Effective communication comes from within. It comes from the desire to understand someone else’s point of view – even if it is at odds with yours. It comes from a spirit of cooperation. Truly effective communication is a skill held by people who are confident, compassionate, and wise.

Here are a few points that will help to explain.

Listen then talk:

We have all been conditioned to view communication as a competition. In fact, our entire Western society is built on the competitive model. We must compete in order to win. We are great competitors. Survival of the fittest, right?

Yes, but that isn’t how effective communication works. Communication is not a competition.

When you are in a dialogue with someone, are you listening – really listening to their point of view – or are you chomping at the bit to throw in your next brilliant point. We have all been guilty of doing that. In fact, we’ve been conditioned to communicate that way. The person who gets their point across the most forcefully, or the loudest, or the most eloquently wins, right?

Consider that communication is not a competition at all. It is a group effort towards a higher understanding. Ideally there should be more than one winner. Consider that however brilliant your point may be, that there might be many other points of equal brilliance that should be heard.

It is the convergence of great ideas that leads to a collective higher understanding. This can only be accomplished when an emphasis is put on understanding other peoples’ points. Do not fear that the other ideas being shared will overshadow –or beat – yours. Have the confidence to draw good ideas from the people around you, whether it’s your boss or an underling, and you’ll end up with a much stronger finished product.

Please don’t dominate the rap, jack, if you’ve got nothing new to say…

We’ve all had to work with – and probably for – a real blabbermouth. They are a never-ending fountain of verbiage. Don’t they sound just like Charlie Brown’s school-teacher after a while? “Wuh, wah, wuuhh, wahhhhh…” When someone runs at the mouth, but rarely has a point, we will eventually tune them out completely. It gets to a point, before very long, where that person may even have a good idea, but we’ll never hear it. “Wah, wuhh, wahhhh…”

And then there’s that other kind of person. The kind who says very little, but when they speak – people listen. This is the quiet, confident type, who knows how to make a point. These are folks who know that good ideas are measured by their quality, not by their quantity.

Who would you rather be? Who would you rather collaborate with? Who would you rather work for? The fact is that less is more, when it comes to communicating effectively. So save your breath, and you’ll be heard.

In short, good communication takes plenty of confidence and empathy. You must truly seek the opinions of your collaborators. You must never be intimidated or threatened by a good idea – even if you have one of your own to share. Consider that the reason you are collaborating in the first place is to put forward the best possible idea. Cooperative, communication will guide any group towards just that idea – then you all win.

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