Bridges Not Walls by John Stewart

If each human perceives the world in his or her own way, then I can communicate only with my perception of you; I can never really get in touch with you. All I can do, when it comes right down to it, is communicate with myself!

I was hooked by this statement. Stewart’s philosophy of communication is that we need to put away our perception of other people if we wish to communicate effectively with them.His philosophy in his book makes me think that had everyone known this fact about themselves, and the notions they create in their minds about other people, then they would be careful to avoid seeing the person they are communicating with a certain way, because they would know that letting perceptive prejudice get in the way is to impair any understanding on their part.

I guess what is different in this book as compared to other books on effective communication techniques is the modus operandi with which the book was written. Stewart explains  in his introduction that his book was going to be more philosophical than technical because philosophy intrigues him as much as communication does. So he somehow wonderfully finds a philosophy behind his techniques in communication;he does this expertly well and this is the reason why I found this particular book interesting.

The part of this book that spoke to me the most was on “Suspending Assumptions”. Stewart explains that when people come together to talk or discuss something, they refrain from forcing their views on others. In a dialogue setting, people can explore new angles to their views. In other words, dialogues encourage paradigm shift. 

I believe that an emotionally  and socially intelligent person realizes that in order to have a meaningful conversation with another person and be able to make a connection with them is if they put aside their perception or attitude about this particular person they are talking to , including putting aside other people’s attitudes about that person as well. Infact, you can tell if a conversation between two people is highly likely to go south simply by observing the attitude of either of the people engaged in that conversation. If either of the people come into  the conversation with prejudice about the other person they are talking with, then whatever is said does not convey the real message because what the other is hearing is basically being actively interpreted in light of pre existing perception of the other person.

So to have meaningful conversations with others you need to act as if you are meeting that person for the first time each time. You stand a risk of failing to communicate effectively when you paint the person’s words using the brush of your own views about them.

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