Communication Calisthenics by Adam Sancic
As I look up at what I assume is either a letter or a number above the boarding platform, that familiar uneasiness resurfaces. A tiny knot of panic quickly tightens around what I now imagine to be a huge hole in my stomach… I should have been better prepared for this trip. Maybe at least printed out a cheat sheet of common phrases or even a caveman-inspired cardboard drawing that I’d hold up to confused onlookers, requesting the need for an immediate rescue from the US consulate.
Maybe walking back and forth between the terminals might help? Perhaps I can find a common point of reference, and at least get on a train that seems like it might be headed in the right direction?
I often think back on that day and remember the acute sense of helplessness that welled up in my throat like a bloated toad. In the end, I managed to stir up enough humility to ask someone for help, and eventually found my way to my intended destination. I now often reflect on that day whenever I miserably fail to get my point across.
Really? You got that from what I just said??
So, just how can I attempt to better communicate my intentions on both a personal and professional level?
What I’ve come to realize is there’s no telling just how someone is going to interpret what you say. Even the simplest of exchanges may result in the most undesirable of consequences. I’ve had a few casual relationships, and several bad encounters, extended beyond their initial “expiration date” from nothing more than one misspoken or poorly thought out sequence of words.
Lately, I’ve come to the realization that communication is directly connected to one’s level of intention. I find it to be a constant exercise in both self awareness and the ability to think not only about the intention of the message you’re trying to convey, but also the consideration of your audience. What is their capacity for understanding? Is there anything really in it for them? My three year old has quickly taught me that there has to be a “buy in” angle to it all.
With that, I’ve come up with the following steps of conscientious communication:
1) Honesty – that “master of the obvious” piece of the communication puzzle. Everyone knows what it feels like to be deceived, and trust is the most difficult thing to re-establish once you’ve lost it.
2) Effort – going with the “bare minimum” when attempting to communicate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been too caught up in my own shit and simply spewed out the cursory “How was your day?” checklist, as opposed to actually taking a moment to see how someone’s day went. Anybody that thinks being intentional with someone is some innate force fueled solely by love is kidding themselves.
3) Perspective – putting yourself in their shoes. I remember promising myself as a kid that I would never be the father that dismissed my child’s emotions, no matter how trivial they appeared. Feelings are very real and worth exploring with those you care about, no matter how trivial they may seem. Five times out of ten something that may initially appear as insignificant becomes a doorway to a bigger issue just waiting to be solved.
4) Genuineness – sarcasm has no place as a meaningful form of communication and should be limited to only your thickest skinned cohorts (the ones with whom you share enough about their past to have them jailed). Gender note: sarcasm is like The Three Stooges to all women – they don’t get it and they don’t like it.
All this takes effort and, like everything else in life, there are still no guarantees. What it will bring is the feeling that you’ve put forth your best effort to communicate in a way that’s healthy and easy to interpret.
And, at the very least, you’ll feel a little less guilty the next time you say something really stupid.