Feb 272014 1 Response

Learn to Communicate Like Facebook

Two of the largest media giants we know—Google and Facebook—can credit much of their success to algorithms.

Google found success by understanding not all webpages are equal. They wrote, and continue to write, algorithms which attempt to provide each search query with the most relevant information possible. Whenever you type something into Google and hit the search button, the information you receive is based on a complex algorithm with the primary purpose of determining exactly what you are looking for based on the words you used.

Facebook must continually spend extensive amounts of time and energy developing algorithms to predict what information you desire at the top of your Facebook newsfeed. With most users having hundreds, if not thousands of friends, they attempt to understand exactly what you want to see. (See: Like, What if Facebook is Right?)

Every time we engage Google or Facebook, we are communicating. We are telling them what we want and they are doing everything in their power to show us what we want. And they have been successful because they listen to what we say (or type or click) and use that information to better understand who we are, what we want, and how they can help.

Contrast this with how most of us communicate. (See: You Hurt My Feelings)

A majority of the time, whenever we communicate with others, we listen to what they say and judge their words based on our experience. Not their experience. Not what they are trying to say or what they may want. We hear their words and never consider the lens through which they see the world. We hear their words and judge them based entirely off of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

While we might hear the actual words they are using, we do not seek to understand what they are saying.

This is why communication often fails. (See: No Words Are Perfect)

We focus too much on ourselves and not enough on the other person. We hear what they say through our experiences, understandings, desires and feelings instead of through their experiences, understandings, desires, and feelings.

Most of us are communicating with the wrong algorithm. We have made it about us instead of being about others.

We need to spend extensive time and resources learning to listen to others and getting a complete understanding of what they are saying before we attempt to apply their communication to our lives.

Our listening algorithm needs to be set on them, not ourselves.

Consider this in:

Marriage. John Gottman has written extensively about the danger of a harsh start-up. When discussing a difficult topic, one spouse begins the conversation harshly which puts the other spouse in a defensive posture. The chance to truly communicate is destroyed. Yet if our algorithm is set on them and not us, we are less likely to start a conversation harshly and more likely to be forgiving and understanding if our spouse begins in a harsh tone. (See: Use Hard Words Not Harsh Words)

Work. So much work conversation takes place via email, phone calls, and quick pop-ins that it is easy to miscommunicate. As we get centered on our work and overwhelmed by the expectations upon us, it is easy to never consider the busyness or demands upon others. Understanding who they are and what they want will drastically change how we interpret what they say or write.

Politics. All of politics is operated from a me-centered algorithm. The only reason a candidate listens to his opponent is to figure out how his words can be twisted, edited, and pasted on a negative ad. But what would happen if our politicians actually began listening to one other, seeking to understand one another, and conducting meaningful conversations? (See: This Would Change Politics as We Know It)

One of the most foolish miscalculations we make is to assume that communication should be easy. It isn’t. Because it is difficult and has serious consequences if done poorly, we should take more time focusing on the communication process.

The first step in communicating better is to switch our listening algorithm off of us and onto others.

Isn’t this what we want others to do for us? Don’t we want them to hear past the actual words we use and to understand our heart and our intent?

If this is what we want done for us, why not start by doing it for others?

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