Sunday, September 30, 2007

Communication: Making Sense

All of our senses gather data all of the time. Our brain is dealing with sensations all the time. Clearly, one of our biggest tasks is to train our brain about what to do with this huge amount of information that is pouring in. That is probably one of the most important tasks facing educational systems. How can individuals best sense, sort and store the data that they’re going to need to make decisions about what to say and do.

Once we think that we have a concept properly ordered in our minds we are ready to make an attempt to communicate what we are thinking. We think that we have made sense out some of the information and now we want to share that sense with someone else. Since the words vary in meaning in each of us, it is difficult to “say” what you are thinking. That is one of the reasons that shared experiences are so valuable in aiding communication.

An example: grown men crying are able to talk about their experiences during World War II with their families after they have all attending Saving Private Ryan, a film released in 1998. Before the movie, most of these mean didn’t talk about their experiences on the Normandy invasion. They had tried to talk to people who weren’t there during the invasion and realized that for them to even begin to understand what they went through (their definition of the Normandy invasion) the people they were talking to could not understand what they were saying. The net affect was that they clammed up. In many cases they couldn’t be persuaded to talk about the Normandy. A case of, “You had to be there.”

Remember, our brains are gathering information all the time. People aren’t talking all the time. That means that we can divide the communication world into two parts: verbal and nonverbal. We will spend most of our time talking about the verbal and much more time should be spent on nonverbal. Perhaps you’ve already heard the Steely Dan song, What I Do. It underscores from the musical philosophical point of view that what we do is extremely important.

In any case, communication remains a very complicated process and it is extremely important to us as individuals as well as groups.

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