Developing effective communication
Our current socio-economic model depends on the internalization and promotion of a particular cultural and social narrative to support its continued perpetuation. This can only be challenged by changing that narrative with tact and skill. The issue here is one of education and brings the question of effective communication into play.
Before starting on this question however, let us first pause to consider the good news from a cursory glance toward the corridors of history. This shows us that the objective of building a critical mass movement for social change on a global scale, whilst incredibly challenging, also seems entirely achievable. This is alluded to by the many shifts in despotic and harmful social norms such as racism, prejudice, the subjugation of women and children to intolerable workplace conditions and universal healthcare to name but a few. We have by no means finished implementing these changes on a widespread scale in many parts of the world, but the trends seem to suggest a gradual emergence towards a more socially cohesive, empathic and egalitarian global human society.
Something worthy of consideration before hand however is that if you support this direction then before continuing on with promoting it, an appreciation should be given to the fact that we have all grown up inside a culture whose media, system of law and general communicational methods are based upon coercion, blame, punishment and retribution which have undoubtedly had a profound impact on how we perceive the world around us and how we ourselves interact and communicate.
Can these coercive tactics be said to be effective though? Well, in the sense that they can often achieve the desired behaviour at least, the answer would be yes, they do.
More specifically I am referring to the arena of advertising and marketing where this efficacy of manipulative communicative tactics are laid bare for all to see. This is amusingly portrayed by Lee Camp in the following clip:
Cringing and despotic as this practice may be in its most rudimentary sense, it´s efficacy for accomplishing it’s aims is difficult to question.
This is particularly well demonstrated at the consumption festival of the year-Christmas. For more information on the campaign to orientate our culture toward the supposed ‘true spirit of Christmas’ and for a more detailed analysis of the consumption promoted during the festive season please watch the following presentation from James Phillips:
Given the overwhelming success (if success is the proper term of course) of marketing and advertising, could there potentially be some worthwhile lessons to learn from the tactics used in marketing and advertising for our own communicative approach? With the scale of the rampant consumption habits bought on by the consumerism they fuel it would be foolish to not at least observe how they achieve such results. This short info graphic on the science behind the psychology of persuasion should help to give a brief outline on these tactics:
It is often hard to know in a world of such fickle, instant gratification whether the person we are talking to has really internalized the value and merit of what we are saying and whether or not they will go on to abstain from such abhorrent behaviour in the absence of any tactics of coercion, threat of punishment or promise of future reward.
In fact, academic research in a wide variety of fields show that once coercive or punitive measures are removed the tendency is for most people subjected to such conditions to be more likely to stop taking an interest in the subject in question after these tactics cease being used.
This issue is summed up well in the work of Alfie Kohn, with the following video which places a particular emphasis on the role of parenting techniques:
With all of the above context taken into account, a reasonable starting position for NLRBE advocates would be an extensive evaluation of themselves and the culture in which they were reared along with the effects this has had on shaping all of our personal characteristics. Such an exercise in self evaluation will only serve to help give a frank assessment of what approaches could be useful in helping to deliver the train of thought necessary to further the transition to an NLRBE.
Leading by example certainly seems to be the most common sense starting point. Therefore, by demonstrating compassion, understanding, empathy, critical thinking and collaboration in our everyday actions we will in a sense be entering into a form of communication in and of itself. This is a constant process of development and should be welcomed as such with a certain humility towards admitting where we may have gone wrong/used poor communicational tactics in the past and how we may go about improving on improving these tendencies in the future.
It certainly seems that the default position in our communicative methods should not be to use the tactics of blame, punishment and aggression endemic to our current way of life if we would like to see less of these in the world.
This is easy to say in principal but quite a lot harder to achieve in practice in a world which seems to constantly demand something from us in some way shape or form. As always however, the question is one of changing your personal and social environment where possible.
The first challenge to transition is communication
This is why patience, understanding and a thorough inventory of the validity of ourselves and the tactics of communication we employ must be our number one priority before embarking on any other effort to communicate what an NLRBE actually is.
This is quite possibly the most difficult and critical change for all of us to make, as it involves us overriding our egos and taking a critical view of our personalities and lifestyle habits and choices to ensure that we are behaving in the most effective way possible to become the change we wish to see in the world.
With this point noted, what tactics of communication would be beneficial for us to adopt in imparting an understanding and appreciation of the need to transition away from our current unsustainable set of cultural values which comprise the current zeitgeist toward a more sustainable set of social and cultural norms?
Useful communicative methods
One method which has shown some efficacy in conflict resolution is Non-violent communication. By focussing on the need behind what someone may be expressing in a given conflict at a given time, it is more likely for us to be able to reach a resolution between people from different backgrounds and cultures.
This method is briefly outlined in the following talk by its founder Marshall Rosenberg:
Further useful communicative methods are outlined in the following talk by James Phillips:
The following lecture series on the subject of general semantics and the meaning of words given by Irvin Lee should hopefully help to shed light on the often overlooked arena of language itself in terms of developing meaningful communication:
Can a direct approach work?
The emphasis on peaceful and constructive dialogue should not be taken to imply that we should never be direct in what we say but rather that a default position of an overtly aggressive approach will more likely lead to the creation of a psychological barrier for those on the receiving end of such tactics, making them psychologically pre-disposed to rejecting our perspective, regardless of its logical validity.
Personally speaking, a more direct style of communication has often helped me to shift my view on a particular subject, but only when I was already pre-disposed to considering the point being expressed at the time.
This may not always seem to be the case perhaps. I am sure we can all highlight moments at which our opinion on a given subject seemed to change almost instantaneously. However, it seems highly unlikely that you could convince someone they are wrong in their disposition if they are emotionally and dogmatically invested in such a perspective at the first attempt. If they did make such a change because of your argument, then it would likely be because there was some kind of underlying associative reinforcement allowing them to make such a seemingly radical and sudden shift in opinion.
This point and other pertinent points reagrding effective communication are well expressed by Jacque Fresco in the following talk on the subject:
The closed minded reaction by many to the idea of the NLRBE may often seem like an irrational perspective to take, were you to assume that human beings are rational in their decision making in the first place. With this point properly understood it becomes a lot easier to discern how it is that someone is unable to appreciate and adhere to clear and decisive evidence when it is put in front of them.
This topic is covered in the following TED talk by Dan Gilbert:
So, considering that human beings are not necessarily rational in how they arrive at conclusions, it seems that establishing compassion, remaining polite, listening and being open to considering and attempting to agree with the sentiment being expressed behind a point of view is often the most effective default position for successful communication. As the old saying goes, ‘people are interested in people who are interested in them’.
Furthermore, I try my utmost to keep an open mind to criticisms of the NLRBE, recognizing that we all have our blind spots and flaws. With all the effort I have put into communicating this perspective, it would be foolish for me to claim that I have no emotional investment in it. The fundamental difference I hope is that the falsifiability inherent to the use of the scientific method upon which the NLRBE rests upon, will hopefully enable me to shift my perspective over the course of my life, allowing me to believe in as few a false, and as many true things as as my life progresses. I would like to think the NLRBE is as susceptible to this epistemology as any other theory or ideology and is precisely why I think we must use science in the running of of global society for humane concern wherever possible. Human beings short comings in decision making and the use of science to accommodate for these inbuilt inadequacies is another point that could perhaps provide useful in discourse regarding the need for the shift to this new socio-economic model.
My personal experience of communication by NLRBE advocates
Resorting to name calling, inciting blame and punishment, being condescending, rude, aggressive (including passively) and ill-mannered and generally not attempting to listen to the feelings and needs behind why someone is saying what they are saying or appreciating how others might feel from their perspective are just some of the tactics I all to often encounter by many advocates of this direction unfortunately.
I appreciate that we all feel passionately about promoting this direction and that doing so can often be a lonely and frustrating pursuit. This is made especially enraging considering the needless suffering and plight being felt by many across our world. I would be lying if I said that I have never resorted to some of these less admirable tactics myself, but this only reinforces the importance of remaining conscious of using only the most effective methods of communication possible at all times.
I would be interested to see if anyone using the aggressive tactics outlined above as a default position has actually found them to be generally successful communicative tools. From my personal perspective at least, whenever I have used such tactics they have always backfired. Ultimately the only thing that should matter in our task as a movement is what works, and when I have used this more aggressive style of communication it has always been a spectacular failure and left me even more frustrated and dejected than prior to doing so.
My Uncle once said something which encapsulates this point rather nicely for me. That being:
“Whenever I lose my temper, I always lose.” Cliff Phillips. 😉
Efficiency and the ‘low hanging fruit’
With the strategic efficiency we advocate it is worth asking a further question when it comes to effective communication.
Considering there are many groups out there who will be steadfast against the idea of the NLRBE, does it make sense to spend valuable time debating with these groups and individuals or speaking to those who will be more sympathetic to our perspective?
This question could be addressed from multiple angles of course. The positive side of this sort of tactic could be to claim that it could help to sharpen your intellectual capabilities, knowledge and understanding of the many subjects which comprise an NLRBE.
Or perhaps, if this debate takes place in the public arena then it may also help to highlight certain unconsidered perspectives for those in attendance.
The downside is that debate is to create hostility and stalemate than the providing the optimal method for reaching a valid conclusion as well as the fact that many of the attendees to such a debate would most likely not change their opinion due to confirmation bias anyway. Debate is a competitive and combative form of communication with the primary interest to win rather than the use of the collaborative process of discussion to decipher a closer approximation of the truth.
My conclusion would be that a far better, effective and more strategically efficient use of our time in advocating this direction would be to focus primarily on communicating with like-minded groups. This is what I would refer to as the ‘low hanging fruit’ approach.
This is precisely why TZM education exists. My hypothesis when starting this project in 2010 was that children would be far more likely to be able to appreciate this message of a brighter future for all humanity than adults would. After many visits to schools with Children of varying age ranges I can confirm that the response I get using this method is a very positive one indeed.
In fact the only negative response I received was when I gave a more aggressive presentation to a group of older students at a secondary school (around 17-18 years old), further cementing the overall perspective that friendly communication and dialogue is far more likely to establish a meaningful connection and reaction, leaving the door open for future consideration by all in attendance.
As mentioned earlier this is not the only approach that could be undertaken, but considering the enormous amount of time I see many advocates of this direction spending on debating those who will more than likely never appreciate what we are trying to convey and with so many other more positive alternative avenues available, the communicative practices laid out in this article should hopefully inspire NLRBE advocates to use such tactics as a major part of their overall strategy if we are serious about making any significant headway in moving the current zeitgeist forward in a positive direction.
So please do take the time to visit the ‘Action in Education’ section of this site, and join in this global initiative to go into your local schools and universities to communicate these ideas to future generations.