Part of our mission to bring Christ to the world through the media involves finding the good, the truth, and the beautiful, and sharing it with our listeners and audience. However, focusing on the good in the world doesn’t mean that we bury the negative aspects of life, as numerous as those may seem to be. It means that we try to find solutions to the tragedy, suffering, and conflict that we see.
And many of the conflicts that we see today arise from misunderstandings, whether that be a disagreement on historical fact, terminology, or moral implications.
Dave Durand joined John Morales on Morning Air to talk about 4 ways in which we can be misunderstood and what steps we can take to remedy those misunderstandings, mitigate conflict, and help the world find more peace.
- One or more parties are missing context – When two people begin discussing something and one person assumes that the other person has all sorts of related information that’s necessary for understanding and they don’t that can cause all sorts of problems.
Imagine one person were to tell another, “He was there on Monday.” For that statement to make any sort of sense, the person hearing it must know A) who “he” is, B) where “there” is, and C) which “Monday” the speaker is referring to.
“So, it’s very important for us to, without insulting the intelligence of the person we’re communicating with, make sure that the proper context is actually there for what we’re saying to be understood,” said Dave. It is not the responsibility of the person listening to figure out the context through clues. The burden of understanding falls onto the person speaking to communicate in a clear and explicit way.
- One party is speaking with elevated emotion – Dave referenced a situation in which people are waiting early in the morning for a speaker to come and give a presentation to them. Maybe some of them haven’t had their coffee. They don’t know what to expect out of this speaker. If that person were to come in super excited and tried to rile the crowd up, it might not work. People don’t want their collective mood to be upended.
Whether it was in a situation like that or in any other situation where a stranger interacted with them in an elevated emotion, the listener is prone to become confused and angry, distressed, intimidated, or upset.
Instead of walking around assuming that people will understand your emotions and therefore the things that you are saying, you should use the attitude and tone that they give you to match them. Then, when you’ve made a valid connection, you can try to elevate them to your level. In that way, you’ll have a much easier time communicating and they’ll be much more receptive to your message.
- One party assumes that others have been educated in the same way or on the same things – Dave clarified that this is different from one party not having the same context as the other. Whereas in the first case, context refers to situational education of a specific case, this idea of different levels of education refers to the education of one’s circumstances, whether that be formal education of an industry or topic, or cultural education of a location or race of people.
Dave offered the example of two people talking about Hollywood. Someone who’s been involved, invested, and educated on the industry might refer to people and intimate knowledge of the industry in a familiar way that the person they’re talking to might not understand. The other person has no way of knowing what this person is talking about because they’ve been educated differently and/or on different topics.
Similarly, you would never try to talk about politics or economics with the average ten-year-old child unless you first explained the context to him in terms that were understandable to him. One would never assume that a 5th-grader is thoroughly aware of the inner workings of political dealings or the way the economy works. It’s simply not something he would have learned.
- One party presumes satisfaction or dissatisfaction, or agreement or disagreement during or before the conversation – Often, people will make a face in reaction to something you said. It may look like it is a face of dissatisfaction or disagreement, when in reality they may just be contemplating or trying to square something away in their mind.
On the contrary, somebody may make a face that conveys satisfaction or agreement when they may actually be cocky or confident because they see an opportunity to take advantage. The mistake where you find miscommunications take place is when you choose to react and change your strategy before they’ve expressed themselves clearly. If you have a good plan, stick to it until you’re sure the playing field has changed. We don’t want to come off as cocky or desperate ourselves.
This doesn’t mean that we should ignore obvious clues. But for the sake of finding common ground with people in a world where conflict is common, we should be looking for every opportunity to make communication with others as pleasant as possible.
Tune in to Morning Air weekdays at 5am CT