I have a confession to make. I love words. I love looking at the definitions of words to see how the they work. I like to examine them and see how I can use them to better explain whatever it is I am trying to explain. Sometimes I discover I had no idea what the word meant and that I have been misusing it for years…
This morning as I started to sketch out the purpose of this post, I started to examine the word communicate. Here is the first definition that came up:
com-mu-ni-cate | verb
Share or exchange information, news, or ideas. To succeed in conveying one’s ideas or in evoking understanding in others.
When I first started reading the definition I felt it was incomplete. If communicating only involved the sharing of ideas, we would all be excellent communicators. Just shout what you want people to hear as loud as you can and viola! Job complete…it isn’t that easy is it? In a word, no.
The second part of the definition I outlined brought the meaning into focus. To succeed in conveying one’s ideas and evoking understanding in others. This, in my opinion, is the heart of communication…understanding. (Side note: This definition said nothing of creating agreement in your listener. When our audience understands us, it does not mean they necessarily agree with us. That is a different topic all together.)
In striving to be a good communicator, I am actively trying to convey my ideas and evoke understanding in my listeners. This is through the words that I say and the way that I say them. There is another element to this though. To share ideas means there is more than just one person involved. Communication is not one sided.
The final line of the first definition states:
(Of two people) be able to share and understand each other’s thoughts and feelings.
Ok, why have I taken you on a definition tour today? I believe that you have important things to say. You have a viewpoint that you need to share. You have thoughts about the world and the way that it works. You have things that you are passionate about and need to share it. Will everyone agree with you? No. That isn’t the point. It is still the way you see the world.
However, as we learn to more effectively communicate, something very interesting happens. People understand us better, yes. We also start to understand others in a way that we haven’t before. We have the opportunity to broaden our perspective. We have a chance to see things differently than we may have before. We change our minds. We sharpen our viewpoints. We evolve and grow.
Effective communication brings us together. I may not agree with everything you tell me, but we have a much better chance of seeing eye to eye if we understand where the other is coming from and why. That understanding can break down walls. Truly communicating is powerful stuff.