Monday, September 10, 2007

Human Communication

You and I tend to think that ideas clear and obvious in our heads will be every bit as clear and obvious to everyone around us. If we can understand it, they should be able to understand it as well. On the other hand, as we gain more experience we begin to discover that things we used to “clearly” understand just aren’t the way we thought they were and we are forced to change our thinking or ignore the problem.

When I was a kid, folk talked about the back country of the high Sierras in California. When I visited the high Sierras I was impressed. Nobody bothered to explain to me that the Sierras were a range of mountains and there was another side. (I knew there was an east side, but I just thought it was a very long way away.) It came as something of a shock to me to discover that the back country was much smaller than it seemed in my imagination. The experience of actually crossing the Sierras and seeing the other side forced me to change my thinking.

My home town of Mountain View, California, seemed to be quite nice and quite large as I was growing up. I didn’t have a lot of travel opportunities and so hadn’t visited a lot of places. When I went back recently to visit my old home town I was amazed at how small and average it had become. (It’s is still my home town and I have many fond memories from there.) Then it dawned on me that the “reality” in my mind was just plain different from the “reality” that I have now. Oh yes, and Mountain View has changed as much as I have.

It’s clear to me that the things that are “real” in my head are not always what I find them to be later on. That forces me to make changes in the way I think about things and what I say. Put another way, the “reality” that we are constructing in our minds is necessary, but not necessarily accurate. What is necessary to live a longer and more prosperous life is the acceptance of the fact that we all have partial grasp of “reality” and we are forced to accept that, until we can revise and update it.

And that has a huge impact on human communication.

I’m certain that you have discovered things in your “reality” that seem to have shifted. How fast can these shifts occur? Are there thought processes that might be useful in detecting these shifts before they embarrass us?

2 comments:

Erica Wilson said...

Very interestingly put. I find the way you explain it to be very thought provoking. So much, in a way, that it makes me think about communication in a manner I never thought before.

John Rice said...

Can you think of some additional ways that we can consider communication. It is at the very heart of what each of us wants to do and we can't really afford to just back into relationships, jobs, or anything else in life.