The Role of Conflict LO9821

Dale Emery (72704.1550@CompuServe.COM)
08 Sep 96 01:51:46 EDT

Replying to LO9779 --


You wrote, "We use language to communicate words (language is the bridge
between people), but the meaning of the relationship (however ephemeral
that relationship may be) is found in the spaces between people."

I like that description. It reminds me of the book "Why Didn't You Say
That In The First Place?" by Richard Heyman (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
1994, ISBN 1-55542-653-0). As I understand Heyman, his central point is
that "understanding talk requires shared context." It seems like an
obvious point, but Heyman explores it in some depth.

You wrote, "Given the historical and contextual differences among those
communicating, the meaning of the relationship can be unclear. That is
why dialogue is so important. It allows us to have a 'free flow of
meaning' thus enriching and clarifying the communication which is taking

Daniel Goleman, in "Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of
Self-Deception" (New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1985, ISBN
0-684-83107-4), quotes cognitive psychologist John Seely Brown: "When we
talk, I'm slowly adjusting your mental model of me, and you're adjusting
my model of you. When you ask a question, there's a chance to correct
some subtle miscommunications. By asking, you implicitly review your
understanding of all kinds of things. That gives me a chance to diagnose
the cause of your misunderstanding and fix it. Communication is basically
a repair process."

(Aside: Goleman's very enlightening book explains how "Undiscussable
Subjects" come to be undiscussable, both in individuals and in
organizational. Goleman goes deeper into the psychology than Argyris does
in "Knowledge For Action," and for my taste, Goleman is more readable. On
the other hand, Argyris offers lots of ideas of what to do about
undiscussables. Goleman simply explains, and raises questions. As he
says in his introduction, "I mean to suggest how those veils come to
exist. But I do not pretend to know how best to pierce them...")

Your message reminds me of something Virginia Satir said: "We connect
through our similarities. We grow through our differences."

I've had enough of quoting others for one message, so I'll quote myself
now (as I give Virginia's idea a bit of a twist): If we weren't so
similar, we wouldn't be able to talk to each other. If we weren't so
different, we wouldn't have anything to talk about.

You wrote, "I don't think putting responsiblity on the sender or the
receiver has any real benefit."

I didn't read John's comment that "Communication depends upon the
RECEIVER, not the SENDER" as putting responsibility in one place or the
other. I read it as describing what happens a single send/receive
interaction. The receiver is much more in control of what gets received.
Most of the time the receiver receives pretty much what the sender
intended. Sometimes the receiver receives something else, independent of
the receiver's intention.

In this case, you and I received different messages from John's words. We
both read the same words, but we made different meanings. What got
communicated came more from you and me than from John.

Fortunately, communication doesn't have to be only a single, one way
send/receive interaction. As you point out, that's why dialogue is so
important. John now has our responses, which gives him the opportunity to
enrich and clarify his meaning if he chooses.



Dale H. Emery | 27 Tall Pine Road Consultant | Berwick, ME 03901 Relationship and Communication | (207) 698-1650 For Successful Organizations |

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