Community, Communication, and Leadership

By Bholanath © 2004

A community may be commonly thought of and referred to in the single. This does not make it a singular object, and properly so considered, it is not a singular object. In fact, it is a collective, the components of which can only rudely be contemplated, referred to, and treated as objects. For the components of a community are living organisms, each with their own unique background, personality, and will.

Let us meditate a bit further upon an abstract individual who we might considering a member of a community. Why do you consider him a member of this community? Does he consider himself a member of this community? Why does he want to be considered a member of this community? Does he have a functional relationship towards the community? Does this relationship function towards his benefit, the benefit of the community, or both? What is this individual capable of accomplishing? What is this individual willing to accomplish? What is this individual willing to accomplish for the sake of the community in question? What is the language of this individual? What is the dialect of his language?

There are many languages in the world and there many theories about how languages relate both to thought processes and external communications. George Orwell made popular in 1984 the idea of “New Speak”, in which the English language was systematically reduced in an effort to control thoughts: if you do not have the words to think of an abstract idea, you can not and will not think of it. Nor, if he could think of it, could he communicate a dangerous but abstract meme to another person when the language does not provide an adequate common tools.

New Speak, however, is not and most likely shall never be a problem. Our problem is quite the opposite. The English language has been growing at a phenomenal rate. This growth contains countless words, phrases, and terminologies which are unique to certain localities, heritages, ethnicitys, cultures, and professions. Even if the sound of the word is not unique, the application of the word may be. But the application may not be entirely different: there may be a subtle difference that only creates a problem when people fail to realize that there is a difference to acknowledge and act upon. Some words even become loaded with more meaning then they are actually defined to have because of the experience that an individual or collective has had with the use of this term. This loaded terminology can inadvertently trigger emotional responses.

But the problem of language is not just a problem of verbiage. This is only the most obvious component of communication. Other components include inflections, eye contact, and body language. As communication is increasingly removed from physical face-to-face confrontations, much of this supplementary information is lost. The assumptions made in their stead can commonly lead to disasters.

There is a theory which suggests that every human actually possesses and uses his own unique language. Usually, the people who he attempts to communicate with are in possession of languages with enough overlap that correct communication occurs, leading to the correct results.

But the language and medium which a person uses in his attempts to send out his messages only represents half the formula for communication. The other half is the language and disposition of the recipient(s). Even presupposing that the recipient has a completely compatible language experience (which may not be true), he may be wanting or expecting a certain response. This may colour his ability to correctly interpret his input when he hears it.

Language schools, for a very long time, have treated listening, like reading, as a “passive” skill (in opposition to the “active” skills of speaking and writing). But, while to hear is passive, (as language schools are now discovering and acknowledging), to listen is an active process. The recipient can not merely allow noise to come to his ears and react equally to every noise that approximates his expectations. He must engage the sounds (and/or other signals) to determine their actual meanings and (more importantly) their actual intentions (which may not be the same thing). Failure to do this can result in misunderstanding, antagonism, and even a complete breakdown of communications.