36. Ensuring the message intended,
Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape, claims that in communication, the animal heritage of human beings is on display through body language and sounds made, even across cultures. The common fear of public speaking has been blamed on an inherent terror of being ostracised. As well as a comment on presentations, the phenomenon of neoteny is identified as those traits in apes and especially in humans that preserve biologically youthful features much longer than happens in other species. Unencumbered by defensive appendages or covers, such as claws or fur, the persistent attractiveness and ultra-social group rapport that evidently result mean that members depend heavily on one another to get their needs met.
Every action can be imbued with meaning by whoever might be witnessing it, subject to many factors affecting perception and interpretation. Eric Berne analysed these transactions in his 1964 classic, Games People Play, and the techniques he initially developed in it to communicate more clearly were carried forward by others into programmes such as assertiveness training. The importance of improving communication skills for succeeding in the workplace and in social life is stressed in many such programmes. Online self-evaluation tests are offered, accompanied by exercises to overcome weaknesses.
People’s habitual responses to information or behaviour presented is routinely exploited by advertisers, marketeers and others. An excellent breakdown of the main points made in the most often-cited study, supplemented by apt examples, on Influence, subtitled The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini,has been posted on casanovependrillblog.
Recipients of messages are affected by a few predominant dynamics: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking and scarcity. These different elements ring true, although intense social pressure to conform while attention is elsewhere is often involved when invoking them, creating an atmosphere of mind games.
The mental capacity of the human race has evolved such a sophisticated fast-paced complex environment, intensified by industrial and technical innovations, that it makes dealing with rapidly-changing situations by falling back on animal instincts more difficult. In uncertain conditions, judgements are arrived at by crunching all available data down into hugely-simplified few options through the use of what Kahneman and Tversky called, heuristics and biases.
This could also mean, however, that default responses are relied on and encounters occur with the same unwanted outcome again and again. Just as the most frequently-heard tip to stay calm while delivering a speech to a group emphasises deep slow breathing, basic relaxation and pausing exercises play a significant part in adjusting maladaptive communication patterns. Creative visualisation is another tool often used to prime for success, as well as actually devising the structure and subsections of a talk or discussion beforehand, and practising it. People swear by this type of preparation.
In ordinary conversations that can become agitated, steps can also be taken to ease matters. One such approach, developed by Marshall Rosenberg, called nonviolent communication, is based on compassionately accepting that everyone has needs and is trying to meet them. In this strategy for positive social change, quite specific guidelines for getting to, and over, the point of strife are summarised: observation, stating needs and feelings, and requesting action. Many people report benefits on learning and applying the process.
Similarly, right speech depends on right thoughts. Instead of blurting things out thoughtlessly, taking a moment to consider how words might affect others refines what is ultimately spoken. Even silence signals something. Just as there are different languages to express the same thing, and different social arrangements to meet similar goals, solving an issue can require an airing of different scripts ,depending on where the actors are coming from. Tolerance conveys permission to safely voice concerns and facilitates more engaging lively debate. Inclusion underpinned by respect is the direction to go in.