Thursday, November 29, 2007

Two Extremes In Human Communication

It has been assumed for many years that human communication can be placed on a continuum with informative at one end and persuasive at the other end. It isn’t an unreasonable idea and it helps us to make decisions about what we ought to do under specific circumstances.

For example, you are trying to explain to your spouse how to mix flour with liquid to create something like smooth gravy. In most cases one spouse tells (definitions, examples, demonstrations, examples) the other spouse, often step by step what needs to be done to successfully make the gravy. If the spouse succeeds we can all give thanks and enjoy our meal. But, even if there are delicious lumps throughout the gravy we can still put it on the mashed potatoes. After all, one spouse is teaching the other spouse how to make gravy.

It is likely that the spouse making the gravy has already heard a persuasive speech which caused them to attempt the gravy experiment in the first place.

When we speak primarily to share information then we are teaching. All of us are teachers all of our lives. We may even be unaware that we are teaching some folk because they never bother to tell us that they are learning from our teaching. When we raise children, we are teaching. We teach constantly and not only when we elect to teach. Our children, for example, learn from us how to walk, drive, swear and work. That’s one of the reasons all of us have heard at one time or another “Do as I say, not as I do.” We want to teach only when we choose to and not all the time. That would be nice if were possible.

Often grand parents think that they have the best of all worlds. They visit and can elect to share whatever they like and they won’t be around to reap the results of their teaching. Speaking to inform, teaching, is something we all do all the time. We must become effective at it for the success of those around us.


Erica W said...

Very interesting. This makes me think about how much I am really teaching everyday. And I said I didn't want to become a teacher. Guess I am one in a sense whether I want to be or not. I better improve my teaching skills if I want my daughter to pick up on the good and not that bad.

John Rice said...

People, children or adults, learn all the time. That means that as parents the ideal would be that we would be perfect in every respect. That's not possible and that leaves us with paying attention and doing the best we can. The reason fro the effort that we put out is the realization that we're building people and in a wider sense, building a community.

This may be the saddest part for me in noting the number of parents that are themselves children. They are simply not prepared to properly instruct people. They are merely old enough to reproduce.