The School of Communication
One of the keys to success in business and in life is good communication. There is a large gap between the meaning we intend and the meaning that the listener understands. It is a gap that has perplexed linguists, writers, artists and philosophers from the time of Socrates. In our daily lives we often find ourselves saying: 'I didn't mean what I said'. There is so much more to communication than just words. There is also context, body language and tone. Nowadays, there is also digital communication and communication between people of different native languages. These can all be impediments to conveying your meaning.
On the simplest level we cannot take language at 'face value'. Someone might be standing in the rain, waiting for a bus and comment to another person waiting for the bus 'what a wonderful day!' In context it becomes clear that this is irony. It is also to be understood in a cultural context as a conversation gambit or an 'icebreaker'. It is the invitation to interact. It is only when it is understood that comments about the weather serve often as a way of initiating communication, that the situation and the initial ironic or sarcastic comment can be understood.
We instinctively know all of this. Computers do not. When we go to a very different culture we have to learn these contextual meanings if we want to appear 'polite' and 'not strange'.
Body language plays a huge part in communication. Potential lovers use lingering eye contact and unconsciously shadow each other - sipping their wine at the same time etc. By doing so they are signaling to each other on a non-verbal level that says so much more than any words can.
There are a whole range of body language signals for all types of interaction including business. For example the firm handshake to mark consent or the two handed handshake used by politicians when they are 'pressing flesh' to signal to the general public that they care, that they are a person of sincere beliefs.
One of the big advantages of learning a foreign language from a person who speaks that language as a native speaker is that while they are pursuing their pedagogical duties they are unwittingly bringing into the classroom the non-verbal communication signals from their own culture. Studying a foreign language abroad is even better because students become submerged in an entirely new communication nexus that forces them to release their propensity for the systems inherent in their own countries. Perhaps this is why they say that those who take foreign lovers learn the quickest.
On top of all these concerns, it is vital in business to master the new technologies of communication. This means Skype, social media, tweeting, texting and so on. Mastery of both the hardware and the software is required to use all these modern mediums of communication. Those who don't keep abreast of new technologies to do with communication are those who will lose in the competitive world of business.
Perhaps the greatest tool for communication is Google.com. Those who are able to put themselves on the first page for important search phrases have the opportunity to communicate with thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands. In this sense business communication has become a cut throat competition to dominate profitable conversations. In many ways this is replacing the idea of 'branding' that sought to communicate through auto-suggestion to engender a mass response.
It is those who learn all these interpersonal, psychological, technical and SEO techniques who will be the most successful in making their communication count, in getting their message over, in being understood and converting that understanding into results.
Although Turkey is often in the news for the wrong reasons about the internet with tales of censroship, filtering and arrests. There is no doubt that it is one of the countries which has embraced the web and modern communication in all forms. In fact there are a huge number of online business running in Turkey which represent one of the biggest sectors.
It’s not surprising that there are so many internet companies in Turkey. The population is large and on the whole very young – over 50% of Turks are under 30. Needless to say this young population are heavy users of the internet and social media, in particular on the South Western coastal areas like Kas. They actually are in the top 10 of Facebook country users which is particularly surprising given that the social networking site has actually been banned for short periods.
There is no such restriction now, with companies like Peak Games producing games which are played by over 35 million people – many of them on Facebook. Half of their users are in Turkey the rest in nearby countries. The games in this country are so popular it is even producing a surge in demand for a Turkish proxy used to bypass restrictions in some of the Middle Eastern countries which block such social networking sites – for more info try here..
There seems to be much more potential to come, which is why internet companies are flocking to the country and being started up all around. Having such a huge potential home market is obviously attractive and there is more potential to come. The penetration levels are reasonably low with only 44% of Turkish users currently online compared with levels of 80%+ in the majority of European countries for example. In the Netherlands that figure is now at 88% which hints at the potential growth that may be to come for Turkish internet companies.
There are those who are slightly worried about the huge rise in this sector of the economy. They think that the economy is unbalanced and leaves the country at risk because of the high reliance in e-commerce. There is also a worry that the boom is creating relatively unsophisticated companies who are not investing in management skills and investing in themselves. Internet companies in smaller countries llike Ukraine and Estonia have to extremely efficient to survive without the large domestic market to rely on. The worry is that these companies end up overtaking the more relaxed Turkish ones.!
There didn’t use to be many barriers to communication online, the internet in it’s infancy was pretty much completely open. Sure I remember a few passwords were required for certain BBS systems or perhaps when you logging in to an online library or something like that, but nothing much else.
Nowadays there are many forces seeking to restrict, block or filter access to huge areas of the internet. Their agendas are varied ranging from political, security to the increasing commercialism which rages across the web. The worse thing is that half the time you have no idea you’re even being blocked. That ’Page not Found’ error might not be a genuine problem but rather a Government tampering with the underlying infrastructure of the internet. They may have decided that you don’t need to see that particular blog or site for some reason.
It’s difficult to say which source of this censorship is the most worrying. To be honest a lot of it was fairly predictable, countries ruled by a despotic regime like Iran or Syria where always going to heavily filter the internet. As a communication medium it is unsurpassed particularly if you’re organising demonstrations or protests. A couple of weeks Syria closed down the entire internet for over a day - in order to block communications between the rebels and protestors.
I think this sort of filtering is always going to happen, by their very nature Governments like Iran and Syria are always going to be worried about free speech, blocking everything is pretty much the only way to stop people communicating online. The reason is that although there are many different methods to block access to specific web and social networking sites, there are many ways to circumvent these blocks. Proxies and VPNs can be used to disguise your location and sidestep the firewalls that these regimes use.
In the commercial sector a prime example of internet filtering is by the big media sites like Hulu, BBC and ABC for example. They’ll normally restrict access based on your location so if you’re in the UK you can watch ITV online but not anywhere else. The same with Hulu they’ll restrict normal access to teh US mainland only. Again these blocks can usually be bypassed fairly easily, this site has a video showing how you can use a proxy server to watch BBC Iplayer abroad on your PC - http://www.theninjaproxy.org/tv/how-to-use-a-bbc-iplayer-proxy/.
Many experts think that countries like Iran and China will eventually block all access to the internet as a whole. It’s just to big and too uncontrolable for their liking, and there are too many little ways to stay anonymous if you know what you’re doing. The alternative is that of North Korea which consists of entirely Government produced websites – which are of course stunningly dull anyway!
It’s looking pretty certain now to me, that the use of post and in particular letters are in their death throes. We all of course know the reasons, there are quicker, more available and simpler ways of communicating your thoughts to someone else. But the availaibility is not the only reason, the fact is that the demand on our time is also a significant factor.
We write letters in our leisure time and to be honest if you have a job and children that is probably one of the scarcest things going. I often think of the lifestyle of the world great communicator – Socrates, someone who’s life was devoted to communication. He spent most of his waking hours wandering the streets of Ancient Athens simply talking to people, well ok mostly arguing! What he would have made of a world where you could send a message to thousands of people across the world instantly I’ve no idea.
I suspect that Socrates would have been rather disappointed though. In reality although the internet increases the scope and level of communication the evidence in my inbox seems to suggest that the quality is sufferring. It’s no big surprise to find that a note typed into a small smartphone whilst you’re stuffed into a cylinder under the City of London can’t really compete with a letter crafted onto paper whilst you relax with a glass of Burgundy in a chair on your back garden.
There is no time to remember, no time to contemplate when clicking buttons. Writing a letter is a very human exercise, it’s slow and contemplative and perhaps one of the few ways to properly share a mood. Have you ever tried writing an annoyed, cross or affectionate SMS or text? I can assure you after critical analysis they alll pretty much end up the same.
Anyway my time here is up, it takes soooo long to write a blog post that nobody will ever read. The same time could have been spent sending 100 text message, a couple of YouTube videos or perhaps liking a thousands of Facebook pages. I forgot my title and subject about the demise of a letter, but I suggest that writing one may be a very worthwhile activity.
I’m going to end this post with a tip, at the moment I’m having a wonderful time in Italy, living and working on the beautiful Amalfi coast. But I am English and I miss the news on the BBC terribly, however I discovered that you could watch it online - http://www.iplayerabroad.com/. It’s not a recommendation and I offer no support or insight but in the quest for communication being able to watch the BBC News is something I’m sure Socrates would have approved of!!
Communication is changing, you’d be foolish to think otherwise. The little local bubbles we used to exist in have been blown apart by the internet. I am probably one of the first generation to know what so many of my classmates are doing, thirty years after leaving school. They sit on Facebook wall popping updates on every significant event that happens in their lives. Many of these I’ll probably never see again in my life, but I know where they are and what they are doing – thanks to social media!
It would be churlish to expect everything is perfect in this new interconnected world. After all how incredible is it, to be able to engage with people across the world irrespective of location, creed or social circumstances. When I started teaching my very first internet class in the 1990s it all seemed so new and incredible. My patched together classroom were all connected to a 28.8k modem (hastily upgraded from the 14.4k one), and twenty students from all walks of life sat in wonder as we talked to people across the world.
I think my moment of epiphany happened when one of the students asked if they could try and speak to an expert. The individual worked in a local zoo and the elephant there had some health issues, noone was quite sure what to do. We worked to try and find an elephant expert and found one ’online’ at a zoology University in the United States. Some quick emails and by the next class we had them connected up using a technology called IRC (Internet Relay Chat). This is a little chat application that people used to use before the days of Skype and SMS.
We literally sat in amazement as the Zoo worker chatted to the American professor about the ailing elephant. Nearly twenty years on I can still remember the look on his face as he jotted down the words (couldn’t get a damn printout!). I’m pretty sure the rest of the class were similarly impressed. Of course nowadays, the world is so interconnected that this seems fairly trivial, but it was a stunning revelation to those of us in that classroom.
However there is a worry now that as all the barriers of communication have been broken down, there are people and organisations now intent in starting to build them back up. We all know that if you live in somewhere like China or Iran your access to the internet will be severly restricted and definitely monitored. But in the Western democracies, censorship too is beginning to happen – not so much by governments but mainly by big business. Ever tried to watch something on youtube and been told you can’t – it’s a common issue and although people have devised methods to bypass them – like this. Well if not it’s only a matter of time, thousands and thousands of the webs biggest sites are slowly trying to control what you can watch online. Normally it’s a matter of location, in order to protect markets or copyright issues, the bottom line is that your web experience is being controlled for profit.
It’s not the brutal, mind control filtering that the Great Firewall of China is indulging in, but it threatens the fundamental concepts of the internet. The ability to access, to speak and communicate freely is dependent on an unfiltered and largely unregulated internet. We must all be on our guard to protect it, when serious challenges like the incredible SOPA bill in the US raise it’s head – it is important we stand and fight this.
Clear and healthy communication is a vital component in any healthy relationship. The inability to foster healthy communication will quickly lead to a negative, and possibly hostile, relationship. These tips are geared towards couples facing run of the mill communication issues. If your relationship is emotionally or physically abusive, please seek professional help.
Timing is everything
“If you need to have a serious conversation with your partner, it is important to choose the right time and place to do so.” Stated the manager of the local dental laboratory. Generally speaking, this would be during a time when the two of you are alone and unlikely to be interrupted. It is also best to strike up a conversation when neither of you is distracted with work stress, like a major project due the next day. If you have just had an argument, allow a cooling off period before your discussion so that it will be fueled by reason, not emotion.
Do it in Person
While electronic communications have their place, it is best to have all serious conversations in person. It is all too easy to misconstrue emails and text messages when the subject matter is heavy. Being able to hear tone of voice and see someone’s body language can completely change the dynamic. Many fights and hurt feelings due to misunderstandings can be avoided by sitting down with your partner and looking at each other while you talk.
Use “I” Statements
Using “I” statements is a mature way to take responsibility for your own feelings and actions. “You” statements are typically viewed as accusations, which will only make your partner feel defensive. Rather than saying, “You never help me around the house,” say something along the lines of, “I have been feeling overburdened with my household responsibilities. I would be very grateful for some additional help since I am so overwhelmed right now.”
Honesty is the Best Policy
It can feel awkward and painful to be truthful sometimes. However, being completely honest and up front in your communications is the only way to build a healthy relationship. Lies and deception will only lead to bigger problems in the long run; lying lays a foundation of distrust.
Avoid closed body language like crossing your arms. Make it a point to touch your partner’s arm or hand as you speak. This tells your partner that you are in a space of openness and still love them. Look them in the eyes. Avoiding eye contact is interpreted as hostility or hiding something.
Give it a Couple of Days
Allow the issue time to breathe. This will help you stay calm and collected while you talk. If you are still unable to communicate effectively with your partner, you may both benefit from the help of a relationship counselor.
In this day and age of personal computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones, personal entertainment has reached ever greater heights of disconnection from others. Families are drifting further apart for each member now having in their possession the apparatus to self entertain, meaning less time is spent together simply because there seems little or no need.
This may or may not be a good thing depending on your perspective, but the end result is that the family unit is being eroded and all we are left with is more of a household full of individual dwellers and less of a family unit. So what, if anything can be done to alter this course of erosion and get family members all together in the same room in a way that they will enjoy and not feel compelled to do?
It may sound an odd way of getting families together, but good old fashioned games can actually be a pretty decisive as well as fun way of getting family members to interact with each other. While not having quite the same impact on the senses as a high graphics and audio sensation of some top computer and Internet games, old fashioned board games actually have an attraction all their own.
In fact, traditional board games like Monopoly and Ludo along with more recent additions such as Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary are making something of a comeback in family circles and looked forward to as a great way to pass some leisure time together. This is good news where it is working to re-unite some families that had been drifting ever further apart, while being old news for those who have been enjoying this kind of group entertainment for years.
So what is it about these kinds of game that causes that feeling of attraction to other household dwellers and causes them to want to join each other in the same area of that living space to play a certain game?
The obvious answer is that playing competitive board games is not only a good bit of fun, but it re-awakens that competitive instinct in partakers that is lacking on the solitary “one player” computer games. Of course, there is the competitive aspect of playing against the game itself in order to win, but it just somehow doesn’t match the reality of competing with real people over a goal that is not only visible and audible but also solid and touchable!
So next time you feel like connecting with your family, suggest you get together around a great board game. You can find out more about the attraction of real games here: www.shutterspudz.com. It can bring many benefits as well as being a good way to spend some fun time.
If you look at the various internet usage polices in American companies, you’ll find that approximately 50% of them ban workers from social networking sites. So no Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn whilst you are working please. However if you look at the most highly rated, best companies to work for in the US then just about all of them embrace the use of these websites. In fact many of them actively encourage employees to promote and represent their brand through their own online presences.
So instead of having a blanket ban and a few furtive employees who use things like VPNs and proxies to bypass these policies – just like this post explains - http://www.proxyusa.com/usvpn. You have people openly promoting and spreading the word about your products, your brand and services in a very natural way across the internet.
Companies themselves spend millions of dollars a year paying experts to promote their brand online. The more you are talked about on the internet the better and your employees are a perfect way to facilitate this. The important point is that it’s a very natural and effective way to promote your brand.
Interflora last week discovered that attempting to artificially boost your online presence can be a very risky tactic. The online florist has a hugely powerful website which ranked very highly in Googles search rankings. They achieved this through very aggressive tactics of engaging bloggers to promote their brand for payment or products. They wrote them letters and emails with various offers and promotions in exchange for links back to their site. The Search giant doesn’t like this open manipulation of one of it’s major ranking factors – links back to a website and they took action and blasted the Interflora website into Google oblivion.
The cost in lost sales will undoubtably be enormous for the company depending on whether they can regain their rankings. The fact is that their practices where well known to be against the spirit of Google’s algorithm and biy have they paid a heavy price.
For most people, it has become perfectly natural to take today’s communications networks for granted on many different levels. We get home from work and switch on the TV set to watch the news or a favorite show without giving it a second thought. We turn on the radio and listen to some music or a talk show and the idea that it might not be there doesn’t even enter our heads.
Yet these and other means of getting a message across from a single broadcasting point to anywhere in the country or even in the world have become commonplace occurrences that we simply expect to be there on demand. But several decades ago, such complacency would not have been so widespread. Television as a communications medium for advertisers as well as show makers to display their ingenuity was still in its infancy compared to its presence today. Viewers were held in awe over the ability to see moving pictures of places they could only ever dream of visiting or watch drama shows that came to life and filled the imaginations of the masses.
With the twenty first century now into its second decade, the evolution of communications is continuing at an incredible rate. The Internet has brought the world of information to the fingertips of people around the world while mobile comms devices such as smart phones and touch screen tablets have taken it to a whole new level of interactivity and accessibility.
While this explosion in technological advancement into the way we stay in touch and gather information has altered our lives for the better, it has also created a spin off effect that may not be quite so well received, especially from the education systems of the civilized world. Due to the nature of handheld devices such as mobile phones and the restrictions placed on the ability to type messages cheaply, or even for no cost depending upon the application or service provider contract you may have negotiated, the art of “texting” has created a sub-language all of its own.
This texting language has all manner of words deliberately shortened to facilitate faster typing and sending of messages to the point that to the uninformed, they can appear almost unintelligible. This reduction in lucidity of the sharing of information may or may not have a negative effect on the learning and cognitive ability of upcoming generations. This balance needs to be addressed and more information on improving your mental lucid space can be found here www.lucidspace.com.
The need for better education to incorporate both sides of communication has manifest with standard language needing to be emphasized alongside the truncated texting language that is fast taking over. As long as people don’t lose sight of the correct form of language and grammar, the two forms can and doubtless will live together harmoniously for generations to come.
Fifty years ago, getting in touch with other people any distance away was a far cry from the capability we have today. It usually entailed either by sending a letter in the mail or by using the long distance service of a telephone provider from a call box. Or if you were lucky enough to be able to afford a telephone in your own home, you could call a person long distance via the operator at a premium cost.
Today we can see that communications has advanced by incredible amounts to provide virtually complete coverage in many countries for land-line based and mobile networks. Keeping in touch with others has never been so easy, accessible and affordable as it is now.
But what price are we really paying for this incredible level of accessibility with our friends, family and associates in both the business and social worlds that we inhabit? As far as using a land-line based telephone system where the handset is attached to its box of circuitry, there is little or no problem to a person’s health in general (see: healthingeneral.com).
But when we are using hand held mobile devices to make those calls, there are waves of electromagnetic energy that extend beyond the physical handset. These waves are emitted at certain frequencies that could potentially be damaging to our bodies.
Mobile Health Check
The problem was first highlighted well over a decade ago when mobile handsets started to become widespread, but despite the warnings from a number of eminent medical experts, the industry carried on with developing and advancing the technology faster than any opposition could be mustered and set into action.
The upshot is that while the warnings are still being voiced, they are not being heeded. Worse still, they are being ignored by millions of mobile device users who simply don’t see any problem with their communication activities while on the go.
Have We Gone Too Far?
It seems as if we have come too far and opened the bottle that let the genii out, without ever being able to close it again. It also seems as though we have come to the point where we simply can’t put things back to where they can be properly controlled and monitored, because the sheer weight of consumerism will not allow it.
Progress has its price and in the case of the health of users of the communications devices that are everywhere, that price may not appear to be high enough for anyone to want to take any notice of any more. Yet when we hear of rising numbers of illness cases that simply didn’t exist fifty years ago, we have to wonder why this might be.
There is an old joke about English people communicating in a foreign country: the joke goes that they don’t use any foreign words, they simply talk slowly and shout. There is a certain amount of truth in this piece of observational humor. The British are poor at learning different languages. Indeed all English speaking countries (with the possible exception of Canada) have the same reputation.
Local people on Phangan Island in Thailand have been used to dealing with foreigners for many years now. Many of the people working in the resorts, bars and hotels know a little English. The trick to communicating is to get a feel for the keywords that they are likely to know. It is no use speaking in colloquialisms or a strong idiomatic language. Moreover, it is worth speaking clearly and enuciating in a Thai way. People with strong Scottish accents can have a hard time being understood. Their brogue and the fact that they will say ’wee’ instead of ’small’ confuses Thai people.
Communicating in Koh Phangan, and in Thailand generally, can be made difficult by the fact that people are apt to say ’yes’ when they are confused. It is rude to say ’no’ in Thai. To get round this problem it is often a good idea to avoid yes/no questions as you are liable to get a ’yes’ when the real answer is ’I don’t understand’.
Another useful tip – no matter where you go in the World – is to learn numbers, please, thankyou, how much and hello. Just these few basic words and phrases put people more at rest and make you feel less like a cultural philistine. And who knows you might get into a conversation with a local who really doesn’t speak much English. The desire to communicate and the imagination to overcome the language barrier is a big step in the right direction.