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Kathy Castle

Ph.D. Student and Course Director- Business and Professional Com,

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What would it take for you to be willing to be changed by your interaction with another?

I study communication and how it shapes our reality. Communication is very often thought of as the process by which we articulate our thoughts and ideas--and the more clearly we do that, the more effective our communication is. This, however, is not communication as I study it...it is imposition. Communication is the negotiation of a shared meaning. Dialogue is a form of communication to which we should all aspire, requiring communicators to seek to create meaning with each interaction. This process requires individuals to evaluate their own social positioning and the power that it does or does not afford them and to evaluate the social positioning of the other communicator and the power that it does or does not afford them in the interaction. Next, the communicators seek to create meaning through interaction by allowing themselves to be impacted and changed by the other person's perspective rather than impose their preconceived ideas in the interaction. In short, dialogue challenges us to question power structures and privilege the emergence of meaning that reflects all perspectives rather than perpetuating existing systems of power.

This type of communication has the potential to create space for marginalized voices in discussions---voices that must be heard in order to allow us to have a discussion that encompasses the needs, priorities and concerns of all of our global citizens. Importantly, dialogue would allow us to hear this from everyone's unique perspectives rather than casting all thoughts and ideas into a more dominant frame that ultimately subordinates specific positions. Dialogue is the vehicle through which all voices have the potential to be heard--but it is a responsibility that we share and that we don't often acknowledge. Those with more power in the dominant framework have a responsibility to create space for all voices rather than privileging voices like theirs.

Given the potential for dialogue, what would it take for us to engage it?

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    Feb 20 2012: Hi Kathy,
    You say you "study communication and how it shapes our reality".

    You then state..."Communication is very often thought of as the process by which we articulate our thoughts and ideas--and the more clearly we do that, the more effective our communication is". ...I agree:>)

    You then state..."This, however, is not communication as I study it...it is imposition".

    What is the imposition, in your perception? How can communication, by which we articulate our thoughts and ideas clearly, for more effective communication, be an imposition?

    I read the rest of your indroduction, and find it to be confusing. I am missing your point....or your intent...or whatever.

    My intent is to learn with each and every interaction, so it is easy to answer your main question....
    " What would it take for you to be willing to be changed by your interaction with another?"
    With an open heart and mind, we are automatically influenced by, and changed with each and every interaction.

    I agree with Linda and her commet..."if there is no experience there is no change". That is a choice we make, as individuals, with each and every interaction, and in my perception, answers your topic question:>)
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      Feb 21 2012: Hi Colleen,
      Thanks for your comment. I apologize if the information I provided to explain my question was confusing. Perhaps my intent will be cleared up in this response. If not, please let me know. The imposition in only seeking to articulate your ideas is that you are seeking to impose your thoughts on another--privileging that over seeking to understand the perspective of that other--if our main objective in communication is to clearly articulate our thoughts, we are missing the boat on co-constructing meaning with another person--we are simply seeking their agreement or acceptance of our presentation of our perspective. Communication is often deemed "successful" when it efficiently expresses a thought or idea. When we communicate with the intent of creating our experience with that person, letting the meaning emerge between us without regard for whose viewpoint is dominant or accepted or agreed upon, we are truly communicating to create new meaning.

      As to the notion that experience is the only way to effect change---I agree---but I would argue that without communication, there is no perception of experience. We understand experience through our communication with others--when something occurs, we describe it, we tell stories about it, we recall it for ourselves and for others through language--and others do the same. In discussing these experiences through our communication, they become meaningful for us, for others, for cultures and societies. It is through communication that meaning about these experiences emerges and transforms over time. So I would argue that talk is in fact, not cheap as Linda asserts,..it's constitutive.

      That said, my intent in this question is to get at what it will take to move from the notion that communication is about effectively articulating one's ideas to the more robust idea that communication is about creating new meaning with another communicator--and all that goes into ensure voice in the creation of that meaning.
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        Feb 21 2012: Kathy,
        I don't believe you said anything about ONLY "seeking to impose your thoughts on another--privileging that over seeking to understand the perspective of that other" Of course that is an imposition, and not included in your first statement....."Communication is very often thought of as the process by which we articulate our thoughts and ideas--and the more clearly we do that, the more effective our communication is".

        I agree with your recent statemnt..."When we communicate with the intent of creating our experience with that person, letting the meaning emerge between us without regard for whose viewpoint is dominant or accepted or agreed upon, we are truly communicating to create new meaning"

        You state..."As to the notion that experience is the only way to effect change---I agree---but I would argue that without communication, there is no perception of experience".

        What exactly are you arguing? There is no argument in my perception. It feels like you are arguing with yourself? Perhaps you are trying to discover what it will take for YOU to "move from the notion that communication is about effectively articulating one's ideas to the more robust idea that communication is about creating new meaning with another communicator--and all that goes into ensure voice in the creation of that meaning?".
        .
        It feels like you have a couple intertwining ideas here, and perhaps it would be helpful to be clear with what you are seeking?
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          Feb 21 2012: I don't quite see where you are getting the idea that I am arguing with myself..The term argument was intended to denote a claim that I would support...not something contentious with you, myself or some other individual. I both respect and appreciate your viewpoint--and see it as an important opportunity to deepen my understanding of the communicative process as it is perceived by those around me. This openness to other perspectives and seeking to understand those perspectives is a basic tenet of dialogue.

          I see dialogue as I have defined it as unique--and as Linda mentions in her response--listening, truly listening is an essential part of the communicative process. This is what I am getting at...can we truly value all perspectives as being of equal importance or are we hindered by the temptation to privilege our own perspective? As we communicate with one another...a process that involves listening and talking...what can we do to ensure that we avoid privileging our own viewpoint? Or, perhaps that is not something everyone sees as desirable...
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      Feb 21 2012: I'm with Colleen on this one. She has nicely summarized what we are trying to find out. Two people can have a dialogue, exchange ideas, have a nice chat but typically that does not create understanding of an experience. It can create an understanding of one persons experience but that's about it. Not much to build change on.

      There are a few ways to create experience.
      1. Immersion. You can go and live with people in a different culture or beliefs. Undergoing an experience and integrate that experience into your own. That is a useful and poignant way to create change within.
      2. You can begin to understand and create meaning from someone else's experience by listening.
      Note the absence of dialogue in the traditional sense. The type of dialogue here is used for clarification. And you need to listen to stories. And you need to listen to many stories until you start to see repeated patterns.

      There are probably more. To truly understand the meaning of an experience you need to LISTEN not communicate.

      It has been my experience that people who cite communication as a strength, typically talk too much.
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        Feb 21 2012: Linda,
        I agree whole-heartedly with you regarding the importance of listening! It is an under-valued, essential part of communication. We do tend to value those who articulate themselves well over and above those who listen well...this is one key element of what I am talking about--thank you for pointing it out more clearly than I did. In a culture that privileges articulation over listening---how can we come to value listening and, I would go further and ask, how can we come to value not only listening, but the willingness to be truly affected by what we hear? How can we encourage these skills so that what we articulate in response moves us closer to a shared meaning?
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          Feb 21 2012: I think we value listening in our culture. I just don't think people know how to leverage listening. The most profound orators understand how to leverage listening. One of my favorite, Maya Angelou. That woman is a profound orator because she knows how to listen. So when she speaks, others listen. The only way to be heard is to listen.

          I don't know how to put it better than that. It's not about the talking, its about the listening. Part of listening is filter. In this society in this time, we are bombarded by noise. Talking heads assault us at every turn. To filter noise and truly listen takes practice.
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          Feb 21 2012: Kathy and Linda,
          I agree that listening is a very important part of successful dialogue, and I do not agree that our culture privileges articulation over listening. As Linda insightfully states in another comment, when we listen, the dialogue flows, so I try NOT to deny myself the opportunity to really listen. and contribute to the flow:>)

          Kathy,
          You ask..."how can we come to value not only listening, but the willingness to be truly affected by what we hear? How can we encourage these skills so that what we articulate in response moves us closer to a shared meaning?"

          I've found the best way to teach or encourage ANYTHING is to DO it..."Be" what we want to "SEE". Unfortunately, when some people have a certain agenda, or viewpoint s/he wants to be accepted, s/he will dominate the conversation without concern for listening. I agree with Linda...the way to be heard, is to listen. Sometimes, listening also means listening to ourselves and how we navigate a conversation...what is our intent? What are we seeking? We need to be clear with ourselves, before we can be clear with others:>)
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          Feb 21 2012: I wanted to get this up before time runs out. I agree with Colleen especially with the se
          f reflective stuff. However, it is good to note that sometimes through dialogue we can facilitate that clarity with ourselves. The whole rehearsal helps us be clearer with ourselves and others.

          Also wanted to note that listening is a skill and it can be taught. I spend a chunck of my time doing that.

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