I have seen too many people get screwed by being unable to communicate (myself included). The usual pattern of events ends in something that can best be summarized by “I didn’t know what was going on.” Now me, I hate being ignorant, so I started taking a look at social interactions, with an eye toward simplifying.
There seemed to be a pretty limited number of basic rules. The basic methodology behind successfully communicating in any environment can be pared down to these four rules:
- Know yourself and your own desires
If you don’t take care of this one single thing, then you will very likely have a lot of unhappy experiences in social settings. When you know yourself, your desires, and your purpose (which can include “no purpose, really, just hangin’ ’round”, then you can’t be knocked awry by things that might interfere.
- Understand your current environment
Pay attention fer Pete’s sake! If you’re going somewhere, think about what you expect of that environment. Get references if you have to. When you’re there, compare against your expectations. Observe. Sure, it’s possible to blow into, say, a party, in an explosion of social energy, but that can be tiring on a 24/7 schedule. Spend a lot of time in “infiltrate mode”. Watch. Observe. Learn.
- Learn how to effectively communicate in your current environment
I think I would consider this part of point 2, but it’s just so damn important that I’m giving it its own point. Observe how others are communicating. You already have a good repertoire, right? Now’s a chance to see which tools you already have work and what new tools you can discover. Are you seeing drawn-out discussions, subtle body language, flamboyant gestures? Do these methods produce results? Then that’s how people are communicating!
- Be willing to communicate using the prevailing methods
Now I remember why I made point 3 a separate point. If people are only getting communication across by bashing each other in the heads with beer steins, then — if you want to communicate in the same group — you must be willing to knock a few skulls in. Use what you’ve observed to understand how to communicate and compare that against your own desires to determine if you wish to participate.
When I review my past (and present!) errors, each and every time I run right into a violation of one of these rules. Maybe I didn’t fully understand what I wanted, maybe I didn’t understand my environment, or maybe I learned that I wasn’t willing to communicate in the manner that seemed most appropriate.
Every single time — at least one (if not more) of those rules — broken like a glass hammer.
Now’s a great chance to learn from someone else’s mistakes for once!