Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When It Is Good To Work Individually

There are times when groups may not be as useful as others. It is important to know about that as well. So let’s look at some of these circumstances.

When you have limited time, it may not be a good idea to use a group. As you have already discovered when your plans involve you and several others there is always a problem of coordination and time. When you are worried about a decision and it must be made quickly you’re pretty much stuck with you and if you’re lucky someone you are with who is informed. That isn’t the same as quick decisions are better. Often they are not better. Keep in mind that there are many situations that call for a decision made quickly to avoid disaster. Later, upon reflection you may think of several other possibilities than the one you chose. Put another way, whenever possible anticipate and plan ahead. Avoid backing into situations that call for quick decisions.

When an expert already has the answer, why would you call a meeting to find the answer? Contact the expert and ask for the answer. The suggestion here is simple: the better you are connected and/or networked the more likely you can rely on an expert. Becoming connected is a communication process and it is never too early and seldom to late to build a network of folk you may need in the future. We need each other and often we need experts.

When the information is quickly available from research resources it may not be necessary to tie up a group’s time. Often what we learn in classes tells us where to look for information and we sometimes think that education requires us to remember information. What you remember as being important in life may now have several different answers rather than the one you recall. It may very well be more important to know where and how to look for information than it is to attempt to stay current with all the things you learned in college.

When conflict and tension in a group are unmanageable, at least within the time frame you have to work it may be best to work individually. As long as human beings have the ability to not work toward conflict reduction there is always the possibility that they will fight rather than switch. By the time you persuade them to set aside their conflict it may be too late for an effective decision.

In no way am I suggesting that the standard processes for enhancing groups and their performance is not important. I am suggesting that when we work with people who have the right to make their own choices and they may not choose the way you would like then we should recall that there are times when it is good to work individually.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Groups and Teams

It may not seem nearly so obvious why we need to learn about groups and teams. But, the fact is that one of the most important reasons for effective communication is to seek and hold employment. Without money we are at the mercy of others. With money we can pursue goals that we select for ourselves.

Businesses exist in a highly competitive situation. There was a time when you could run a business badly and still make a living. More and more, we are finding big box and internet businesses making it nearly impossible to successfully run a business. Under these circumstances, businessmen are being forced to learn about the use of employees in areas that used to be considered the sole domain of owners and managers. Employees were trained and told what to do and they had little or no latitude in making decisions.

Now owners and managers are being forced into the area of asking employees how the business might make profitable changes in operation. The employees are often able to supply critical information that enables the business to continue. We have more examples of successful use of employee thought outside the United States than we do within. But, that is changing because of the increasing need for employees that can think critically and communicate well. No employer really wants to be without these capable and qualified people. They probably all ready went out of their way to hire you because of your above average communication skills.

Now, because you understand what your business organization is doing and the terminology that is required, you have an excellent chance to remain employed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stages of Relationships

The model that appears in Beebe, Beebe and Ivy’s book, Communications: Principles for a Lifetime, depicting the various stages in relationships has at least one serious flaw. The escalators/elevators depicted seem to indicate that when we arrive at the top level, “Intimacy,” we have reached the top. Since the page is finite the model appears to be finite. But, in fact, the concepts of intensification as well as intimacy are potentially able to build and expand as far as we are willing to take them. They will continue to enhance meaning within you as long as you continue to add them to your meaning.

With that thought in mind we can make excellent use of this Relationships Stages model to think about and analyze our own existence aiding us to achieve our goals (managing relationships.) Somewhere along the way we sense (see, hear, touch and/or talk to) an individual that catches and holds our attention. It could be at work, a party or in some common area that each of you has visited. This first awareness (pre-interaction awareness) of the other is often exciting and filled with anticipation of fun. (And there is a red flag waving here: much of this process is nonverbal and that indicates that you must provide a bulk of the “meaning” that is attached. Put another way, you must project your “meaning” from your own experiences onto the other person. You have no real idea of how the other person means until you can check your perceptions.)

To satisfy your curiosity (desire, anticipation, hopes) you approach the person to find out more about the person. When you introduce yourself (initiation) the other person is beginning to understand that they have had an impact on you (or they have been communicating nonverbally.) As you begin to introduce yourself (self-disclosure) the other person has the opportunity to turn and walk away or hang around and see where this contact leads. Their first impressions will also be what they sense (nonverbal.) They too will project what they hope you are onto to you. This will be the standard by which you are judged to be worthy of continued contact or not. This makes your nonverbal communication extremely important (be aware of your communication with yourself and others.) Keep the conversation/negotiation light and shallow. That way you can watch (listen) for reactions from the other person which will guide you in what you choose to say and do thereafter.

If the two of you are interested in following your interests, then both of you will be ready for the next stage in establishing a relationship, which is exploration. Nearly anything that the two of you choose to do will permit you to observe (listen) the other’s actions and reactions, giving you additional insights into what to say and what to do. There is no reason this process needs to stop. One way or another, the two of you can continue to explore giving each of you additional meanings for the other and yourselves. There is no way to put relationships on “hold” and not have them being to dissolve. If you want the relationship to continue then you must continue to explore. (Here is another red flag. In the American culture we tend to think of many things, including relationships as things which can be set aside under certain special circumstances. For example, marriage may be an indicator that now is the time for you to concentrate on your career and thus leave little of no time for exploration. That may be the beginning of the dissolving of this relationship.)

The next stage is obvious to all our relatives, friends and acquaintances because we are spending so much time with one another that there is no time for them. That is because we are trying to satisfy our curiosity about each other at the highest possible rate and that indicates that we are now in the intensification stage. This stage can be somewhat flexible, but it cannot be omitted without the threat of serious damage to the relationship. For example, if by my nonverbal communication I tell you that I cannot be without you for any extended period of time and then suddenly begin to go back to my old ways and start spending time with my previous friends, you will be upset and want to know what is going on. The change in behavior indicates the potential for change in how they feel about you and how important this bond really is. None of these stages are necessarily discrete, and may overlap. But, it is still a strong indicator of the progress being made in the relationship.

Intimacy, the final stage in the building relationship process involves nearly every aspect of your life or meaning. Certainly it is physical, because of the trust built up over time each of you knows what a touch means and what an appropriate reaction would be. But, probably more important is the awareness of each other’s thought processes and what is likely going on inside their minds. They probably can talk to each other in abbreviated sentences and understand one another. People listening to their conversations will not have enough understanding of what is being said to take any action at all. Now that is intimacy.

Effective communication is tough. It requires thought and action. You can’t ever just coast and be assured that you are going to be on course toward your goals. What changes do you think you’re going to make when you are talking to anyone after you have understood the potential consequences? What actions may now seem to be filled with potential problems? For example, if you’re not feeling well and don’t want to concentrate on your communication, what is it going to cost you when you’re no longer ill?

Appropriate Self-Disclosure

What should I say? This is a serious and appropriate question. There are days when we’re feeling less self esteem than others. We may feel the need to talk to someone and we might have warm feelings about the person to whom we are talking. In general, when we feel the need to talk to someone, older and more established relationship are safer. That would mean the stronger the bond between the two of you the better for you. When you’re feeling more confident and have greater self esteem you’re in a position to listen carefully with all your senses. That will put you in a position to accept and process the information you receive in self-disclosure from the other person. It will also aid you when you’re deciding what can or should be said at this moment.

Please let me say again that time is necessary to aid you in all communication. Things that are hurried almost always leave important gaps. You won’t notice the gaps, because you won’t want to see them. When human beings want to they can construct and defend some very elaborate structures which will eventually come tumbling down and leave us in much worse shape than we were in at the beginning. Take things slowly so that you can listen, ask for clarification, organize and store the information coming your way. Your brain does a lot in this area while you’re sleeping, which is another reason why we should be getting more sleep on a regular basis. The American way is to get too little sleep and that predisposes us to dangerous thought processes.

So, what should be said? Start with questions of position such as: “Where are you from?” “Where did you go to school?” “What do your parents do?” “Of the places you have lived, which appealed to you the most?” “Do you have a large family?” “Are you affiliated with a church?” “What is your favorite activity?” What is your favorite food?” This line of questioning will allow you to learn about the other person in ways that are fairly public and might be known through nonverbal communication had you had the opportunity. If the other person doesn’t have any idea of what to ask and is just sitting there like a bump on a log, then these questions become your script to talk about yourself. They are largely harmless potentially and can be discussed safely.

Move very slowly toward the things you seldom talk to others about. Keep in mind that you may never get to the point you where you want to talk to the other person about some of the things that you have thought about or are thinking about now. There are some things that we should only talk about to qualified professionals in an attempt to understand why we’re thinking about them in the first place. These things are extreme and without a doubt you haven’t acted on them anyway. If you have acted on them you can bet that somebody saw your nonverbal communication and have already assigned some unfortunate meaning to your actions. Put another way, don’t act on everything you think.


Through nonverbal communication, observation, we can tell quite a bit about one another from a comfortable and safe distance. That permits us to avoid some folk that we don’t think we would care to know and allows us to approach others that seem to be appealing to us. The problem with nonverbal communication is that it is ambiguous and we don’t really know how much they weigh, how tall they really are or that they really have an education. We can only apply what we have learned through experience over the years. Unfortunately it is still ambiguous.

We’ve all heard, if not said, that you can’t tell a book by its cover. We could add that we’ve seen movie trailers that indicated that the movie was going to be hilarious. When we went to the movie we discovered that we had seen all the funny parts in the trailer. With this thought in mind, how can we help those that we want to be attracted to us to approach us so that we can begin to reduce their ambiguity . . . or answer they’re questions more precisely? First we attract their attention, usually nonverbally and hope that they want to follow-up on their curiosity.

Then comes the more difficult part: self-disclosure. You know a great deal about yourself and could talk for literally hours about yourself and that would not be wise. Instead, you must employ some critical thinking while you’re talking to the other person. In many ways conversation is negotiation. You tell me a little and I’ll tell you a little (reciprocity.) I’ll probe, with a well placed question, areas that are of particular interest to me and you will do the same. After a period of time, we are beginning to build a skeleton of knowledge about one another. Please be aware that this should take some time. Also, be aware that you should keep the amount of information shared fairly short at first.

Beware of information overload. When you talk for a long period of time and expect that the other is going to recall everything you’ve said you’re wrong. They will be like you and selective about what they recall. Probably both of you will recall the good stuff, things you really wanted to hear. Many shorter conversation mingled with activities is a good plan. Churches, social clubs, mutual interests and projects allow the two of you to observe (nonverbal) on another while thinking about the things that you are already aware of. Be aware, this takes time. Moving quickly in human communication indicates trouble ahead. Take your time and that means you’ve made time to communicate.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


In the Beebe, Beebe and Ivy book, Communication: Principles for a Lifetime, they define “attraction” as “A motivational state that causes someone to think, feel, and behave in a positive manner toward another person.” There are many reasons why we might find ourselves attracted to another person. Some of them Mom would have thought to be worthy. Many things drive us all the time and in that mix we find ourselves trying to figure out , “What attracted me to that person?”

In general, we need to examine ourselves in a wide range of behaviors. Understanding more about these areas should help us in the process of training our brain to pursue those things which will be most positive. For example, there is general agreement that we should have a shopping list and then avoid shopping while we are hungry. That way we’ll stay on budget and make more positive contributions to our overall fitness.

This also applies to attraction during various phases of our physical development. For example, five to seven year old boys have a tough time appreciating the hugs and kisses they see. But, as they approach adulthood, they become aware that some of the those “awful” and “embarrassing” activities just may be worth a little first hand investigation. The difference appears to be the introduction of certain hormones into their system. Once those elements are present in the system, there is a whole range of behaviors that “require” their thought and may even lead to experimentation.

Sp attraction appears to vary from time to time and year to year and we should be aware of the elements that cause the attraction as possible so that we can allow our carefully trained brains to protect us from some really stupid errors.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Interpersonal Communication Is Most Important

If we accept the definition for interpersonal communication shared by Beebe, Beebe and Ivy as “Communication that occurs between two people who simultaneously attempt to mutually influence each other, usually for the purpose of managing relationships,” then several things seem to follow.

1) It is the most important social skill needed in life.

Those of us who do an excellent job of interpersonal communication are able to reach our goals in life more often than those who are not. Each of us would like to be able to live with the person of our choice, live in the community of our choice, work at the job of our choice, and work at the level of our choice and at the pay of our choice. All of those goals can be enhanced through effective use of interpersonal communication.

2) Has a huge impact on our lives.

By adjusting our interpersonal communication throughout life we are able to remain flexible and can maneuver through situations that might derail other individuals. When we spot those in our lives who have a positive influence we can elect to move in their direction. We will also be aware that other successful people will be moving in directions that aid them in achieving their own goals. There is no assurance of success in all cases.

3) With thought its impact can aid us in building our lives.

Just because you have acquaintances does not mean you have friends. Some folk might be present in our everyday lives, but that does not obligate us to listen to and follow their advice. Instead, it is probable that seeking out and establishing relationships with those we can trust and care about our future because they see themselves in that future and want it to be as optimal as possible for both of us.

You are the person that is building your life. Nobody else knows how to do it for you and you are in the best position to redirect your energies so that you have the best possible chance to achieve your goals. Who are you aware of in your life that is best suited to advise and direct you in reaching your goals? At the moment, are they comfortable with you and able to communicate with ease about a wide range of subjects? Is there trust between the two of you? What do you need to do to enhance the relationship so that it might be optimal for you and the other person?

Are there ethical concerns about taking such a deliberate course of action? How can I look out for my own well being without damaging those around me?

Sunday, October 21, 2007


“Ethnocentrism is the belief that our own cultural approaches are superior to those of other cultures” according to Beebe, Beebe and Ivy. And why wouldn’t we believe that? From birth until about 5 years old our moms and dads have been telling us how things should be done. What reasons might they have to lie to us. No reason. They are simply telling us how things work for our own good.

If the way we think things should be done are different from other folk, we still know we are right. And if we are right, that makes them wrong. And at 5 years old that make perfect sense. But, at twenty years old, that shouldn’t make sense nearly as much. Again, we should allow for the fact that we are going to think what ever we like. But, there is a huge difference between thinking and acting. Do not act, unless forced to and then learn everything you can about your background and the other culture’s background. Now you will be in a better position to decide which system is better.

In addition, having been wrong for years is a heavy burden. Many of us choose not to pick it up. Instead, we continue to maintain the “correctness” of what we have been taught. That way we imagine ourselves to be superior to others, if for no other reason, we haven’t been wrong. This whole thought process is divisive and counter productive.

What would be wrong with a position that assumes that you will always try to follow the data toward the best possible solution? That indicates that your current positions are practical but tentative and with the addition of new data, you are able to efficiently change. Wouldn’t that make more sense?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Adapting Communication to Others

If we accept the idea that each of us is unique, then we can see that our work is really cut out for us when it comes to communication. If what you’re saying must be fit to each person then it really is a huge task. There are high priority communications and are most important to us, and in these situations we need to take the utmost care. The risk is the prioritizing process is that none of us know the future and what you thought of as a lower priority may turn out to be very high.

If we could achieve the ideal in every situation then we would know enough to properly choose symbols (words), how these symbols should be ordered (grammar) and how and when to deliver the communication. We don’t live in an ideal world. So we must begin as soon as possible to pay careful attention to people. According to C. S. Lewis, “There are no ordinary people.” But as we observe people, we begin to discover that there are patterns and adaptations that can be used that help in the process of communication. Be a student of people.

The more you know about the people you are communicating with the better the chance of effective communication. So there is a whole range of considerations of which we can be aware. Here are some of them:

1) What is their culture or cultures?
2) What is their gender?
3) What is their age or age range?
4) What is their level of education/experience?
5) What media do they spend their time with?
And in a few minutes on your own and you can easily double the length of this list.

You are beginning to understand the complications present when you are attempting to “Ethically adapt your communication to others.” Of course it is important to “know” what you’re trying to say. But keep in mind that people may or may not allow you to say what you want to say. If you don’t appear to be the kind of person who can say what you are trying to say, they will just ignore you. That means in a very real way, you’re working on your next speech everyday of your life. If your audience appears to believe that you can say what you want to say, then you are on the way to adapting what you have to say to your audience.

The more you know about them, the better the chance that you will say what you need to say in a way that they can accept, understand and adopt. Some questions to ask yourself:

1) Who am I?
2) Who do they think I am?
3) What do I know about the subject?
4) What do they know about the subject?
5) What do I think I can tell them?6) What do they think I can tell them?

Sunday, October 14, 2007


In our heart of hearts we know that listening is extremely important. The problem is, it is difficult and often when you listen to things you find yourself struggling to understand and then help some poor soul out of some painful situation. It is odd though that we expect others to listen to us and we speak very highly of those who do. So, I’m thinking that listening is a valuable skill and really deserves our full attention. So what are the basic elements of listening, at least according to Beebe, Beebe and Ivy?

These are listed as basic elements of listening:

1) selecting

2) attending

3) understanding

4) remembering

5) responding.

As you look at this list it hits you that this looks a lot like work. It is a lot like work. There are several things you need to be productive at the process of work and listening. Let’s list a few of them. We need to be: rested, physically fit, free of preoccupations, able to focus our attention, clear about what is being said (verbally and nonverbally), able to recall what has already been said, and finally our reaction to what has been said. This is such a tough assignment that we have hired psychiatrists and psychologists to listen to us for years. When we can’t afford them we ask those who love us most, our friends and relatives to listen to us.

Does it pay off? Yes. This is how we build relationships and maintain them. This is how we find people we can live with for our entire lives. This is how we get and hold our jobs and get occasional raises. This is how we are able to raise our children and merit their love and support throughout our life times. But, we will have to make adjustments in order to accomplish the task of listening.

We will have to get enough rest. We will be fit and take/make the time select what is being said. Rested enough to focus on what is being said. Ask questions when we aren’t clear about what is being said so that we do understand. Hold the entire discussion in our heads long enough to clearly respond to what is being said.

It is a tough task and deserves our full attention and it is clear that we can’t do it for lots of people. Instead, we will have to narrow our field of contacts or fail at listening. We can’t do everything and this one concept, listening is proof.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Nonverbal Cues

Nonverbal cues give us information that can greatly aid us in communication. First, imagine these circumstances: Ever since you walked into the classroom there have been classmates looking at you and talking quietly to those around them. Once in a while there is a giggle and often there are smiles. The key thing that doesn’t ever happen is they include you in the conversation. In fact, you’re certain at this point that the discussion going around the room is about you. Then it dawns on you that you have a job interview after class and there is no time for you to go to your room and change. Instead of wearing your regular student uniform (blue jeans, hoodie sweatshirt that says “No Fear”, and tennis shoes) you’re wearing a light jacket, white shirt, black dress shoes and a tie. Finally, one of your classmates asks, “Are you going for a job interview after class.”

Your response, “Yes I am. How did you guess? Perhaps it was the clothes I am wearing. Wish me luck.”

Not know what the other students were saying and suspecting that they were talking about you could have been quite unsettling had nobody clarified the situation. You probably would have checked all you buttons and zippers and wished for a mirror to check things that can’t be seen without one. With that explanation in mind, much of the whispered conversations around the room have an explanation that allows you to relax.

When you’re feeling confident and your self-esteem is high, these little unexplained conversations around you aren’t very tough to deal with. On the other hand, when your self-esteem has just taken a hit and you’re feeling sort of down, then these conversations might make you feel resentful and uncomfortable. Those talking about you and not with you are not being particularly thoughtful. The person who chose to talk to you was being thoughtful and at the same time satisfying everybody’s curiosity. The nonverbal cues you picked up on do have an impact on you.

As is almost always the case, nonverbal communication is fuzzy and imprecise. How we are feeling about ourselves and the rest of the world can have a huge impact on how we interpret nonverbal communication. We need to keep that in mind. We have an obligation to ourselves and those around us to create the most positive world possible. We all live in our world and the more we can do to reasonably boost one another’s self-esteem the more likely our world will be a positive one.

Things we should ask ourselves. When we are talking about things that nobody should hear which would be better: talk quietly looking around to see if anybody is listening or talk in private so others can’t misconstrue what is going on? If you know another language and are talking to another person in a language unfamiliar to those around you, you may be having a negative impact. We don’t know what you’re saying but if it was “good” you would be speaking so anyone can understand. Of course, there are occasions when a different language must be used. Be aware of your communication’s impact on those around you.

And remember nonverbal communication is interpreted by the viewer. If you are concerned about the possible interpretation of your nonverbal communications do your best to structure them physically and/or verbally so that the fewest possible interpretations can be use. Its safer all the way around.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nonverbal Communication

It has been estimated that we communicate emotions nonverbally most effectively. In fact, it may be that as much as 65% of what we say is said nonverbally. Worse, as much as 93% of what we reveal about ourselves is done nonverbally. If we don’t get a handle on what we “are saying” and “how we are saying it” we will not be aware of what people know about us from a distance. They will know things that we may deny, but will still be correct. And we will probably continue to deny them because we never “told” them what they think they know. But, the fact is, we “talk” all the time and much of it is nonverbal.

So let’s review some of the ways we “talk” to others without proper personal awareness.

1) When we get dressed are we thinking about what the clothes we’re putting on are saying to everyone who can see us?

2) Walking toward our transportation, are we preoccupied and not really aware of our immediate surroundings?

3) If we are driving to work, is a late departure making us push the edges of the law and safety so that we can arrive on time?

4) If we are bored by what is happening, do we tell others by looking at our watch to check the time?

5) If we see someone who is “really interesting” walking by do our eyes reveal that we are no longer listening?

Any action to which I can attach a meaning completes a nonverbal communication. I may not want you to notice what I’m saying, so you don’t necessarily intend to “tell” me what I now know. Intent is not important here. But what is important, that we be aware that we are always talking and folk around us are “listening.” The biggest problem with nonverbal communication is our inability to control or adjust the meaning you attach to it. The communication may be inaccurate, but the chances are very high that those who receive the communication will act on their interpretation of your nonverbal communication.

Recently, Marcel Marceau died. He was often described as the world’s greatest mime: a person that could tell stories without ever saying a word and those watching would agree on the story’s content. You can learn to improve your nonverbal communication and make it work for you more often and reduce any negative impact some of your nonverbal may have.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Words Are Powerful

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That’s an idea that many parents have taught their children so that they wouldn’t feel so bad when they are attacked with words. That’s really a stupid idea. When we’re reviewing the events of our life we often think of things that were said to or about us that remains to this day as a painful memory. Words are extremely powerful and what is worse, their meanings vary from person to person. They vary because we acquired the words in ways unique to us and can’t know how that word really means to the person who is using it without extended contact. The kind of contact that happens over time and in a variety of circumstances is necessary to acquire an idea of how others mean when they use their words.

Most of us know someone who uses words to demonstrate that they are “brilliant.” They seem to use words to prove that they know the words. That communication then, might be perceived an expression of superiority and may not be very friendly or useful. Beebe, Beebe and Ivy point out that we need to adapt our communication to the person(s) with whom we are attempting to establish a connection.

It makes more sense to choose and use words based on what you know and what you have determined they know when attempting to communicate. This communication has a different goal: to establish a connection rather than demonstrate “brilliance.” Many things can impact word choice: culture, context, gender, age, class, race, religion to list a few. In short, words are powerful and require considerable knowledge and focus in order to select the proper ones at the proper time.

Each of us can recall a time that “misunderstandings” came up because of word choice. We wish we could call back some things that we have said. Unfortunately, we can only attempt to reduce the hurt of badly chosen words. We cannot call them back. We each have memories that work very well.

How do you prepare for an important situation? Do you ever practice what and how you’re going to say something? Have you discovered over time how to say some things in a more productive way? Do we sometimes view close acquaintances or friends as folk we don’t need to be concerned about when choosing our words? What are some of the risks involved with this kind of behavior?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Attitudes, Beliefs & Values

This is an area where choosing your parents carefully can pay off. Since none of us have that opportunity, the next consideration is how we can make the most of ourselves in spite of those around us from conception until we are aware of ourselves as individuals.

Attitudes: those things put into our brains before we have awareness making it impossible to filter. Put another way, our parents should teach us by example and with words what we need to know in order to maximize our lives. As a child it never occurred to us to say, “Really, mom, that just can’t be correct. I’m just not going to permanently store what you just did/said.” Instead, as babies we are data sponges and we soak up everything and store it for future use. That’s good as long as the data is accurate and useful for us in building out lives. That’s bad when it is not. As we grow older we find stuff in our memories that we no longer hold to be true or useful. Now we have the problem of deleting. That simply doesn’t work well. Instead we must build a new structure in our brains that represents what we believe to be correct/true. That is time consuming and difficult. Some ideas may never be tested and we may never be aware of the fact that they don’t fit reality as we intellectually believe it to be. Fact is that we need to be aware that we are always a work in progress and that it is entirely possible that we didn’t start with the best of data.

Beliefs: our experiences tell us that certain things are true and we those beliefs often control our actions. For example, you find a political candidate that seems to think about things in a way that fits reality as you see it. You begin to follow what they are doing and saying and find yourself willing to vote for them. You can’t help but notice which political party they belong to and find yourself voting more and more for folk in that same party. You have come to believe that their view of reality and your view of reality are similar or at times the same. You become a believer. Problem is, it is very time consuming to keep up with all those politicians and it is just plain easier to vote the ticket than determine what is best for your world. In that respect, beliefs can become dangerous to us and our communities.

Values: expectations have caused us to accept that certain things are right. For example, several conservative friends of mine have said that they don’t think that individuals, businesses or nations should allow themselves to go deeply into debt. As a matter of fact, they think everybody at all levels should try to operate on a pay-as-you-go basis. These folk have beliefs that Republicans are conservative and they are in a difficult situation because their belief in the Republican Party is important to them and their belief that we should be operating on a pay-as-you-go basis is also important. They are in a quandary when it comes to the huge national debt that the United States has acquired. Be careful when trying to talk to them about this kind of topic, because it has become a major conflict in their minds and they have not yet decided what to do.

Do we have any attitudes that we don’t want others to know about? Could it be that we have discovered that our attitude does not fit with what we now believe to be true? Do our values match what we believe about ourselves and our communities? This internal conflict can be a major stress point, and can complicate communications.