ESL Journal
The Journal
Respond, but be slow to react
(By Prof. V. Prakash) We cannot imagine a world without communication. At the same time, from time immemorial, communication has been the cause of worry to the civilized world. There can be no prescriptions if one decides to put across the subject matter in a clumsy manner; rather many suggestions come to the fore when a cultured way of speaking is the intended method of delivery. Innumerable strategies have surfaced depending on the needs of the changing world. The workplace atmosphere paves room for learning and handling newer ways of interaction to keep the game going.

Anatomists will point out that eyes and ears are seated closer to the brain than the tongue. The signals from the eyes and the ears transmit meaning to the head and then send responses through the tongue. Hence, it is not surprising that the signaling will naturally have time delay. Shall we not accept this physical impediment and find ways to refine our communication?

Passive listening is the normal course of response when we are slow to decode the sender’s intentions. However, many a time the same type of repeated passive listening will not bring encouraging results. All of us are aware that active listening includes responses and it is good to remember the truth that a meaningful response brings forth more information and allows more time to gather facts before taking any further step. This reduces considerably the chances of letting your preconceived notions come into play.

Sometimes your reputation may be hindered due to your reaction to a minor argument. This caution helps you to cultivate a habit of responding carefully even in times of crisis. Introspection is essential especially during testing times.
Belief systems are to change about responding - “I am inferior if I do not react. I am inferior if I do not shout back.” – may not hold water for all occasions. Remaining calm is a sign of maturity, not inferiority. One cannot command respect just by shouting. Focus should be on the situation and not just on the person. Strategies are to be changed depending on the person with whom we are interacting.

“When to remain calm? How to remain calm at crucial points? Are there rules for it?” - these are questions to be answered with common sense. Sometimes you gain importance by remaining calm; sometimes decisions may go against you. You have to speak up, but let it be in the end, making yourself clear about your stand.
This attitude speaks a lot about your maturity and personality. Be flexible and adaptable. Be ready to accept that life situations are the greatest trainers. Each situation is different from the other and each one is to be faced based on its merit. However, the storage of information about communicating makes one fit to handle crucial moments.

You can launch on a smooth runner by using the frames of complimentary communication. Complimentary communication puts the listener and the speaker in the same realm of understanding. The agreement tone, soft speaking and polite language help a lot in this. Cross Communication reflects the hasty temperament of the listener. He/she will be motivated to speak rather than to listen and most often meaningful exchanges are hampered by cross talking. Cross communication doesn’t allow time to the brain to understand and to react and brings forth often unproductive results in the world of mutual understanding. While conversing one should look for content and intent and definitely time delay is a prerequisite factor. Listen, grasp and speak is the safest mode of playing the cord. On a few occasions, one can also initiate and continue with ulterior communication with an intention to get things done. An intelligent partner of a conversation can easily identify that one using ulterior communication comes with prejudices and preplanning. When the intent is evident, how can there be a healthy exchange of ideas?

Hence it is clear that responses are highly dependent on the strategies used. A ball hit on the face will cause pain, but a ball hit against the wall will bounce. Look at the three patterns of strategies used and the responses they bring.

  1. A communication block (usually a generalization or an outpour)
    We are wasting our time. This plan will not definitely work.”
    An aggressive response
    I know this will not work. You implement if you like.
  2. A weak form of communication (with a tendency to please all)
    “I request you to kindly honour my appeal with a favourable tone.”
    A submissive response
    “Since you have all decided, I fall in line with your opinion.”
  3. An effective communication
    “I expected you to be here at least by 5 p.m. We were supposed to start the programme at 5.15. Shall we start our discussions immediately?”
    An assertive response
    “I wish that the plan (could be) shelved for the time being. If most of the members of this committee feel that it has to be put into force, we can discuss various issues in detail.”

It is good to learn contexts familiar and unfamiliar, expected and unexpected, plain and tricky and to keep ourselves equipped with a sprint of thoughts.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

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