The Issue of Communication in the Modern World
According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of communication is, “the science and practice of transmitting information to another through connections or means of access; social dealings; letter, message etc”. We must communicate in an effective manner in order to be understood or to get our message across to the other person. One of the basic keys to effective communication is, not to simply hear, but to listen.
”The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them”-Ralph Nichols.
Hearing means when one simply hears the statement and does not let it register. Listening is to give keen attention to the message and let the brain register and analyze it. Most problems in organizations occur due to poor communication. There fore, it is essential that we understand what communication is all about, before merely applying it to the day-to-day situations in our lives.
"Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act." — James Thurber.
It is utmost essential that we don’t just communicate, but communicate effectively. In order to do so, there are a few factors one must keep in mind. Some of those are the Learning styles, National Cultures, Motivational As, Motivational Aspects and the Johari Window of different people. Let us examine all these concepts now, and understand how they lead to the art of effective communication.
• Learning style is a student’s consistent way of responding to and using stimuli in the context of learning. There are various instruments used to determine a student's learning style. David Kolb developed a learning styles model in 1984. This model is based on two lines of axis (continuums): our approach to do a task, preferring to do or watch, and our emotional response, preferring to think or feel.
These learning styles characteristics are normally shown as two lines of axis. The east-west axis is called the Processing Continuum (how we approach a task), and the north-south axis is called the Perception Continuum (our emotional response, or how we think or feel). This also describes four different learning styles (and also methods):
Knowing a person's (and your own) learning style enables learning to be orientated according to the preferred method. That said, everyone responds to and needs the stimulus of all types of learning style - it's a matter of using emphasis that fits best with a person's learning style preferences:
Pragmatists (or Converger) like to learn using abstract conceptualization and active experimentation (laboratories, field work, observations). They ask "How can I apply this in practice?” Here, the communicators approach requires gathering the respondents feedback; activities that apply skills; communicator is a helper for a self-directed autonomous learner. The pragmatist an idea practically an is unemotional. They prefer to deal with things rather than people.
Activists (or Accommodator) like to learn using concrete experience and active experimentation (simulations, case study, homework). They tell themselves "I'm game for anything." Here, the communicators approach requires practicing the skill, problem solving, small group discussions, peer feedback. Their strengths lie in doing things and involving themselves in new experiences. They are called accommodators because they excel in adapting to specific immediate circumstances. The accommodator is at ease with people but is sometimes seen as impatient and pushy.
Reflectors (or Diverger) like to learn using reflective observation and concrete experience (logs, journals, brainstorming). They like time to think. Here, the communicators approach requires giving the respondent plenty of reflection time, providing expert interpretation. Their strengths lie in an imaginative ability. They tend to be interested in people and emotional elements.
Though all these different types of learning styles need to be kept in mind during communication, it is also important to let the respondent take his own time in course for learning. Communication should be flexible so that each learner could spend additional time on his or her preferred learning style. For example, the cycle might begin with the learner's personal involvement through concrete experiences; next, the learner reflects on this experience, looking for meaning; then the learner applies this meaning to form a logical conclusion; and finally, the learner experiments with similar problems, which result in new concrete experiences. The learning cycle might begin anew due to new and different experiences.
Let us now look at The National Cultures. Every human relationship in this world, be it personal or professional, is effected, or perhaps even defined by the national and cultural field in which it functions. As mentioned earlier, we grew from the primitive ages, and divided ourselves into different countries. In order to communicate effectively, we need to remember we might be addressing a wide range of people who come from various backgrounds. To communicate effectively with them, we need to distinguish between cultures by the solutions each culture chooses for particular problems. We can look at them under three main aspects:
1. Problems arising from our relationships with other people.
2. Problems which come from the passage of time.
3. Problems which relate to the environment.
From the book “Riding the Waves of Culture” by Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, five different orientations with respect to relationships with people can be identified:
• Universalism Vs. Particularism
• Communitarianism Vs. Individualism
• Neutral Vs. Emotional
• Diffuse Vs Specific
• Achievement Vs. Ascription
Universalism Vs. Particularism
A Unversalist culture is based on rules. This type of culture is found mostly in developed societies and nations. Here, all the rules are laid down by the society and every individual is expected to follow them. Examples of such nations are, The United States of America and The United Kingdom.
A Particularist culture is based on decisions made on the nature of the situation or circumstance. This type of culture is found in the less developed societies, where people tend to give a lot of value to emotional aspects and sometimes may look at each other for decision making. They like to make decisions based on how the situation is, as they feel each situation may require a different perspective. A good example would be India.
Communitarianism Vs. Individualism
Communitarianism is found in traditional or conventional societies. Here, the community or societies views are regarded first, and then an individualistic perspective is considered. No decision is made without the concerned parties consent. Examples of such cultures would be India, China and Greece.
An Invividualistic culture is found most commonly in modern societies. Here, the individual makes all his decisions himself, and others do not affect these. He regards his opinion much higher than the society he lives in. such individualism is found in Americans, Canadians, Indians, and Chinese etc.
Neutral Vs. Emotional
Neutral cultures are those, where feelings are controlled and are kept subdued. Right from the formative years, a child is taught to behave in a certain manner and control his emotions. In such societies, people grow up learning to camouflage their emotions very well. this is a characteristic in the French, Chinese and Germans.
In emotional cultures, feelings are expressed very openly. People are open about their happiness or sadness in a certain situation. They are usually open with one another about their problems and joys and tend to be surrounded by family or friends at most times. They are warm and personal. For example, India and Japan,
Diffuse Vs Specific
This aspect of cultures is very personality based. Diffuse cultures believe in customising their response or approach when dealing with a particular person or situation. They take time out to know the person they are dealing with. They do keep a few rules in mind, but go out and to have personalised interactions with people. They believe that various people can do a certain job. For example, the Americans follow a diffuse culture. Specific cultures are the ones where everything is followed under rules and regulations. They do not mend them in regard to situations as far as possible. They are mostly inflexible. Example of such a culture is the Chinese.
Achievement Vs. Ascription
This relates to the value and accordance of status in a culture. The first kind of status is called achieved status and the second ascribed status. While achieved status refers to doing, ascribed status refers to being.(SOURSE)
Achievement based cultured believe in giving regard and esteem to a person only when it has been achieved by him/her. People are evaluated on their level of education, achievements and honors earned by them. Ascription based cultures give regard to people on their experiences, age, gender and family status. It sometimes also depends largely on the financial status of a person. Example of Achievement based cultures is one followed by Americans. Here, people are addressed by their first names, and are regarded only on what they have earned in life. Where as a perfect example of an ascription based culture is India. Here, an old person is given a lot of respect because it is considered that he has seen much more than the younger lot. People are also regarded high if the family owns a high financial status in the society.
It is essential to keep these factors in mind while communicating with people. It should also be kept in mind that one might face language barriers in dealing with different people. Jargons and harsh statements, which might be misinterpreted or not understood, should be avoided.
Now, we will look one of the most important aspects of communication, Motivation. This has a very deep impact on an individual and his thinking. to understand this better, we can shall look at three motivational theories designed by Abraham Maslow, Fredrick Herzberg and Douglas McGregor.
Abraham Maslow is known for establishing the theory of a hierarchy of needs, writing that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs, and that certain lower needs need to be satisfied before higher needs can be satisfied.
Maslow studied the human behavior and came up with a ‘Hierarchy of needs model’(1939-1943). This model as explained in the diagram below is in shape of a pyramid. It lists a humans needs in order of importance and claims at the bottom most should be satisfied first and foremost, after which the others follow in order. These are, Physiological needs, safety and security needs, Affiliation or Acceptance needs, Esteem needs and self-actualization needs.
Physiological needs are the most basic needs of human. He needs them in order to survive. For example, need for food, drink, sleep etc. after these needs are satisfied, a human moves on to the nest level of needs, the need for Safety and security. A human needs to feel secure in the overall spheres of his life. For example, need for a home. This would mean a need feel safe in his surroundings, at home, or at his work place, with his colleagues, or people around him, in order to feel accepted and in order.
Affiliation/Acceptance needs is the third level of the pyramid. Maslow defines these as a human’s need for love and belonging. This also relates to work places. If a person feels accepted and loved, he would in turn feel a sense of belonging. This would motivate him to work better. Esteem needs related to an individual’s honor and self-esteem. Every individual is comfortable when he is recognized and his self-esteem is high. Power and position tend to take him to a high in self-esteem. This must be kept in mind while communicating with people, so that one does not tend to hamper a persons self esteem or disregard his honor.
The summit of the pyramid states the need for Self Actualization. Once all the other needs are satisfied, an individual seeks self-realization. These relate to job satisfaction, self-development and a feeling contentment. It is easier to communicate with these people as they are content with themselves and their lives and are open-minded and eager to receive and give feedback.
Though this model is very popular, it does have its limitations. A lot of persons do not relate and agree with this model. Today the growth of an individual might be much faster than what it was earlier. He might directly want to reach the self -actualization needs. So, it is important for a communicator to bear this in mind.
Now we will look at the theory on Motivation developed by Fredrick Herzberg-The two Factor theory. Herzberg divided the motivational factors into two broad categories: Motivators and Hygiene Factors.
Hygeine Factors comprise of the environment, i.e. the extrinsic factors. For example the salary earned by a worker in a firm also, the working environment, lighting, heating, job security etc are also parts of the Hygiene factors. If these factors are not up to an employees standards, it would result in dissatisfaction. This would in turn affect in de-motivating the employee.
Motivators consist of the intrinsic factors and the actual job itself .For example, rewards, incentives, promotion etc. these factors lead to a very high level of motivation. If an employee is given incentives, rewarded for his work or promoted, it would motivate him to work harder.
These factors should be approached side by side. While hygiene factors ensure lack of dissatisfaction, Motivators ensure existence of dissatisfaction. These factors should be kept in mind while communicating with an individual.
The last theory we would look at is Douglous Mcgregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. these theories were published in 1960, in “The Human Side of Enterprise”. McGregor states that two theories can be applied to any work place.
Theory X states there is a general dislike towards hard work by people, and they avoid as much of it as they can. Hence, an iron handed approach should be taken with such people and need to be controlled. This theory states that an individual likes to be told what to do and needs structured guidelines otherwise the task at hand would not be accomplished. Communication with such people would lead to “Tough Management” with a lot of threats and punishments if objective were not reached.
Theory Y states that individuals need job satisfaction and motivation to work, but are not afraid to do the same and therefore need not be strict with. Thus communication with such individuals need not be as authority based as seen in Theory X. Delegation of responsibility and incentives are satisfactory to get workers under this field to perform. The objectives of the organisation must be laid out clearly and the employees must believe in them to perform. Motivation is the solution when looking at Theory Y.
After looking at the different types of motivational theories, one must realise that in order to be an effective communicator, these need to be adhered to.
Finally we look at the Johari Window. This model was developed by two American psychologists, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham. These describe the process of human interaction. This model works on two axes. The vertical axis represents others’ knowledge about own self, and the horizontal axis represents knowledge about own self. The space between the two axes are divided into four quadrants labeled:
Open/Arena (known to self and others)
Hidden/Façade (known only to self, not others)
Blind/blind spot (known to others, not self)
Unknown (known to neither others nor self)
The first quadrant, the Arena/Open, is the outer shell of individuals, which is openly revealed to others. For example, you know a persons name, so does he. A lot of initial communication happens through this quadrant.
The second quadrant, the Façade/Hidden, is the information an individual holds back while communicating with others. For example, you might not know that the person talking to you loves chocolate ice cream. In order to be an effective communicator, one must aim open up people thereby reducing the size of their hidden window. This helps in Self-disclosure.
The third, the Blind quadrant, represents those aspects of individuals, which are openly seen by others, but not known by the person himself. For example, you are dining with a group of people in a restaurant, and the person sitting next to you has some sauce on her nose. You can see that, and so can everybody else, but the person in question is not aware of it. An n effective communicator must be able to show people their blind quadrant frankly, which would in turn help the concerned person to be at ease with the communicator. This can be through feedback.
The fourth quadrant is the Unknown quadrant is that which is known neither to self nor others. For example being in a completely new situation with other people. You don’t know how you are going to react, and neither do the others. This helps in triggering off personal growth. This is very similar to Maslow’s concept of self-actualization.
Keeping in mind all the four sides of the Johari window, an effective communicator must be able to determine the levels of candidness an individual exhibits. Once he is able to establish these, he would be able to put the individual at ease and would thus be able to communicate effectively.
They say that the world is getting smaller. Global trading is a very important aspect of every economy. This requires dealing with people from different nationalities and different cultures from all over the world.
“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” - Carl W. Buechner 
Though a large number of communicators are born with inborn strong communication skills, in order to become a successful communicator, one must bear in mind that one could be is dealing with different people with different backgrounds. These people have different learning styles and different Johari windows and different things motivate each one of them. This essay gives an insight to a communicator into all the mentioned aspects, thus leading him to become a successful and effective communicator.
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 Luft,J and Ingham H, (http:// www.telometrics.com/info/resources_johari.html ,27th Nov, 2003)
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