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Friday, February 5, 2016

Icebergs, Mirages and Crucial Conversations

ONE thing I’ve come to notice more and more in the science of human beings interacting is the amount of data and information not communicated — whether it be through miscommunication, disinterest on the part of the receiver, distrust on the part of communicator, etc.
There’s literally an iceberg effect in the science of communication — most of what should be communicated, isn’t.  It flies under the radar, and it becomes fuel for conflict later on.  The iceberg effect should be obvious, but in case you don’t know, most of the iceberg is under the waterline — we can’t see it.
In the case of communication, if most of the information isn’t communicated, or it isn’t communicated with clarity, then miscommunication happens, and then does conflict, and certainly intimacy suffers.
One key issue is what’s not communicated is open to a broad expanse of interpretation.
Trust Facilitates Understanding
When trust prevails,
What’s to be said is said,
When trust fails,
What’s unsaid is misread.
Trust facilitates courage in that we’ll check what needs to be clarified so what’s to be said is actually said.  There’s little left open to interpretation — the making of assumption.  It’s good when we feel safe enough in a relationship that we know we can ask an awkward question and not be harangued for it.  If we don’t feel so safe, we’ll probably let the opportunity slip.
Safety and trust are linked in that we trust when we feel safe, and trust facilitates understanding.  And without understanding we cannot nurture trust.  Then when we enter the fray of what are termed ‘crucial conversations’ we enter on a dangerous footing, because there are high stakes, high emotions, and opposing views — three key dynamics working against us.
Not Letting Assumptions Reign
Not everything to be said,
Is given forth in interaction,
What’s left unsaid,
Should be cause for distraction.
Yes, this is the iceberg effect.  If only we would detect that there are things left unsaid.  Then we’d pursue such things with caring curiosity, understanding would develop, and trust could be enhanced.  And yet many don’t seem interested in such relational clarity.
Every good leader, and certainly every diligent human being, ensures they keep short account of how much assumption they allow to develop within their minds.
What’s left unsaid should, indeed, be cause for distraction; it should bother us.  In fact, great credit should go to the person who acts on their suspicion that something’s not quite right.  They will pursue the matter with both curiosity and care.
Blessed is the one who doesn’t allow a mirage to go unchallenged.
***
Crucial conversations are aided when we stay interested in what isn’t communicated that is important information.
The higher the stakes are, the less likely we are to trust a marginal relationship with key information, especially if we don’t have to communicate it.
Communication occurs mostly below the waterline. We’re blessed to listen more for what’s not said than for what’s said.
Communication polarises intimacy; we either trust and enter into intimacy, or we cannot trust and intimacy is broken down.  And it all rests on communication.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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