Monday, December 3, 2012

You cannot not communicate

It was a challenging week.  A week when the universe shouted at me Paul Watzlawick’s communication axiom “one cannot not communicate”.

Yes, every behaviour communicates something.  Even silence and ‘non-action’  transmits data and information which is received, decoded, interpreted by the receiver based on their own filters.   People may often not even know what they are thinking, but their unconscious behaviour will enact their thoughts. They will show you.

In the context of leadership, an ex-colleague of mine would talk of Forensic Leadership: that we are constantly looking for clues, signals, pieces of information about our leaders about who they are, what they stand for, how aligned they are with words and actions, all to help us ascertain if we can trust them and decide if we want to follow them.

Co-delivering an intensive 4 day programme in Bangkok, with a diverse group of highly experienced, senior leaders of an international non-governmental organisation, it was a reminder about the choices we make as senders and recipients of information, and how the clues we look for can be even more complex when a multiplicity of cultural layers (personal, organisational, ethnic, generational, religious, class, gender, professional/educational, regional, national) are at play.

Sometimes our antennae aren’t developed enough to see the signs or our filter ‘pure enough’ to receive the message clearly. Sometimes, as I wrote in another blog, we pretend not to notice.  Sometimes we just get it right. 

Jetlagged musings so far, in my view, when we communicate well, we:
  • are purposeful: we know what we want to communicate and make conscious choices.
  • use our sensory awareness:  through experience and knowledge we finely tune our antennas and in a heightened presence in the moment, use our sensory awareness to notice and to act. 
  • are flexible:  interested in the other and driven to understand and integrate, we remain non judgemental and adjust our style for mutual benefit.
  • go easy on ourselves and others when it all goes a little ‘wobbly’.

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/

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