What do these three things have in common; Governments, Corporations, and Relationships? I will give you a hint, their greatest weakness could be turned around into their greatest strength. Any guesses? It’s COMMUNICATION.
Communication is the imparting and exchanging of information. Communication is often seen as the act of speaking, conveying a message, or sharing thoughts and ideas. Governments communicate with each other and communicate with their citizens. Corporations communicate with their employees and those employees communicate with one another whether that is leadership to subordinate (vice versa), co-worker to co-worker, and employee to customer. And in relationships, we communicate with one another, friend to friend, partner to partner, and family member to family member.
All living things communicate in one way or another but why is it that humans seem to have the most difficult time? We, by far, have the most complex way of communicating with one another, through spoken words, unspoken words, through body language, and action. Yet most times when we communicate things go don’t go as we would like. Why?
I believe it is everything rolled up into one. It is the words we choose to say, it is the words we choose not to say, it is our body language that does not support the words we speak, and it is the action that seems to have a message all its own. It is also in the interpretation of the communication. All of this comes down to the one thing that humans seem to have that other living things don’t have, emotional baggage. We use this baggage, many times, unbeknownst to even to ourselves, in the way we communicate and the way we listen. We use past experiences to guide how we interact in the present and future. We seek patterns in behavior because it is easier but this often leads to assumptions and assumptions lead to nothing but misunderstanding.
So how can governments, corporations, and relationships work better at communication? Since all three are made up of people, we have to accept that we all have emotional baggage. Our baggage is all the stuff we carry around with us from past experiences, both good and bad. Unfortunately, the bad experiences are the heaviest of the baggage and effect our every day lives to include decision making, how we give and receive information to include how we communicate and how we see the world. Bad experiences weigh more in our baggage then positive experiences because we harp on the negative and use this as a way to protect ourselves from pain and suffering. Even governments and corporations have baggage. Their baggage comes from failures in their past; failed policies, failed products, failed deals, failed relationships, etc.
Think of your baggage as pieces of armor. Every time you have a bad experience, you add another piece of armor and before you know it you are ready for battle. This feeling of being ready for battle doesn’t only effect how you see situations, but is effects the way that people see you. People will always see you on the offensive and ready to fight. This will put them on guard and now the both of you are coming to a discussion prepared to fight before even one word is spoken.
Understanding your baggage is not an easy process. It takes time to sift through what is in your baggage, how it got there, why you choose to drag it around, how to unload what you don’t want to carry around any more, and learn to work with what is in there. Learning what is in our baggage is a life journey. It takes a lot of work but will help you understand why you see the world the way you do and help you see the world for what it really is. This is what it means to be self aware. Self awareness is acknowledging that we have baggage, what is in the baggage, how that effects us and how to work with it. Once you begin on your journey of self awareness, you will begin to truly see how you communicate with others and how others interpret what you are trying to communicate. Once you realize that your baggage and subsequent armor is from the past and should not effect the present and the future, you will start removing one piece at a time and opening yourself up to the possibility of meaningful connection through communication.
Once you start to understand your own baggage, you have to begin to understand that other people are carrying around their own baggage as well. Their baggage is effecting them the same ways yours is effecting you. Understanding other people’s baggage is difficult, but just acknowledging that they have baggage of their own that they carry is a big step. Once this acknowledgement is made, you can begin to let you guard down and start communicating in a way that is meaningful. Get to know the other person, where they are coming from, what they fear, what they want, and how the two of you can work together to achieve an outcome that satisfies both your needs. I believe it is through this mutual understanding of baggage, that we can truly begin to break through the barriers of poor communication and get to really listen and communicate in a way that is powerful.
What baggage are you carrying around with you? How does it effect the way you communicate? How does it effect the way you listen? Do you draw conclusions or make assumptions before you truly hear the other person out? What can you differently going forward to open yourself up to communicating more freely and being heard for what you really have to say?