In the course of my MBA studies, professional career, life as a priest, and all the points in between, I have witnessed and participated in conversations gone wrong. “What we have here is a failure to communicate” (Captain, in Cool Hand Luke). I have studied instantiated and uninstantiated communications, message and meta message theory, and a whole host of topics whose names have been lost in the course of time. It seems as though communications is a mathematical stew of thousands of variables and a limited number of equations… translated: there is no one solution. At best you can hope to reach an optimal answer given a particular starting point – it won’t be perfect, but it will hopefully work.
Along the way I have often recommended the works of Deborah Tannen. She is an author, linguist and holds a PhD in the topic. Here is a partial list of her popularly written books:
- You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation
- That’s Not What I Meant! : How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships
- Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work
- You’re Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation
If you are interested in such things (… or need to be “interested” in such things) the books are readily available. If you would like a “sneak peek”, she was recently a guest on “Hidden Brain” a great podcast.You can listen to the podcast here.
Hidden Brain is described as “The Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain’s host Shankar Vedantam reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.” It is great show I highly recommend.