Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Communication Gaps and Inter process communication

For the longest time, I was never listening to others. While the other was talking, I would typically be validating it against my templates and rejecting or accepting it outright. Or even more dangerously, I would be getting defensive or offensive. The entire process would get complete in no time and by the time the talker even completed his sentence, my verdict would be already out. And the poor talker doesn't even realize how much of his energy got wasted in this process.

I had no clue as to how much unfair and disrespectful this was to the other party and I have no idea how much it would have offended and pained them.

Since the last year I started consciously listening more and trying to ingrain what others were speaking before opening my mouth. I started thinking on the responses that people give as a habit and then I started realizing how painfully ineffective 2 way communication really is. It is rendered ineffective by myriad and unfathomable factors. I have come to believe that predominantly it is ego, age, sex and intelligence. Now, this is not something new that I am writing about, there are already loads and loads of material available on the subject of effective communication. I for one am quite skeptical whether it's really useful or not. For one, there is no way one can memorize all of those at will and start employing such methods picked from memory at will when an actual communication is happening. Even if someone with a superhuman intellect does manage that, it still remains that the sheer diversity of human factors will keep on outrunning the known literature on the subject of effective communication. Generally there is precious little of time at our disposal before the subconscious mental processes inside the listener's brain takes over. I have personally struggled with the biggest predicament of them all - where the other party doesn't even realize that there is so much of dynamics involved in communication. (I am reminded of a joke - A man advises a boy when he is about to venture out for a night in the forest. If he encounters a lion in the forest, to point his flashlight straight on the lion's eyes to scare it off. And to this, the boy asks - Does the lion also know this?)

Being a software programmer, I always have a tendency to look at computer architecture and human brains for everything. I was thinking about the differences between inter-process communication for computer software and that of human software. Both employ protocols for communication. The difference is the crystal clear way in which software marshals data out and how fuzzy the way humans do. While in software there is a clearly coded way in which data has to be taken out from packets (of communication), in humans this process is extremely complex and much difficult to alter. Each person reads out data in the communication the way he has "coded" his brain with his emotions and judgements starting from experiences beginning at day 1 of his life. On a lighter note, there are no OSI layers, webservices or APIs for human to human communication.

The complex processes in the human brain is the source of all the creativity and resourcefulness of the species even though it is at the root of the problem being discussed. Once its mastered at one's personal level, there should be some way it can be harnessed for effective communication.
Deep listening and crystal clear, emphatic communication for change, would be key skills for any person who is in a journey of discovery and personal mastery. It has to become a habit and come out from the subconscious with constant practice. I am not oversimplifying, this is not something that you practice for a few days and become a maestro of - like driving. This takes a lifetime of practice and contemplation, but the underlying principle is the same.

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