Written by Fernando Rabanales, member of our Faculty. In this article Fernando expresses a style of communication that reflects a leadership value that we teach in our programs: the power of listening and being present, truly present.
Communication is More Than Words
Almost half a century ago Dr. Albert Mehrabian discovered that in reality very little of what we say, we say with words. When we speak, only seven percent of what we say is transmitted through the content of our words. Thirty-eight percent is in the tone of voice, the intonation, our rhythm when speaking, etc., and fifty-five percent is body language (gestures, the way we move our body, postures, among others). This brings us to the two greatest difficulties in communicating: on the one hand, the problem of actually expressing what we want to say and, on the other, the problem of understanding what our listeners want to express to us. In order to communicate effectively we have to learn to “read” beyond their words.
Knowing how to read between the lines allows us to go deeper into the subliminal message of an informal conversation, a simple one like “how are you?” or “how do you feel?” These prompts can be the beginning of fictional speech. The moment we begin to speak we are confronted with a fiction that we have created, and, that we hope, reveals a truth. There isn’t a “pure” language. The only “pure language” is the initials sounds of a baby. When we lose our originality, we begin to create an image of ourselves loaded with masks of complacency. This idea brings to mind the crystal clear conception from Adrienne Rich of a liar as someone who has lost sight of the possibilities that exist between two people, or a group of people. She writes, “our capacity to create reality, through the creation of fictions with language, should not be abused. This abuse is called lying. Those who are in the public life that create our values are especially called to not “lie”. Without exception most of us believe that that they are lying to us.”
Are they lying to us or are we lying to ourselves? It is here that silence, listening to our own discourse is very important.
In his book “Nine Kinds of Silence” Paul Goodman writes:
“Not talking and talking are two human ways of being in the world, there are types and degrees of both voice and silence.”
There is the silent silence of stupor or apathy;
The sober silence that goes with a solemn face;
The fecund silence of conscience, the grazing of the soul, from which new thoughts emerge;
The alive silence of the alert perception, ready to say: “This … this …”;
The musical silence that accompanies the absorbing activity;
The silence when listening to another speak, take it adrift and help him to be clear;
The noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination speaks loudly and subvocally but hard to say;
The bewildered silence;
The silence of a peaceful contract with other people or communion with the cosmos.”
Do you listen enough? Do you listen with your eyes, ears and heart, seeking to understand? If you do that instead of seeking to be heard, you are surely on the path of true communication.