Communication is Attitude:
Communication is attitude way before it is words or action. The moment we meet someone for the first time, our instinctual antenna have scanned and recorded that person’s attitude. Unless something occurs later to convince us that the first attitude was not characteristic of that person, we will adopt a counter attitude that will set the tone for all further communication. As the expression goes, we never get a second chance to make a first impression.
So what is attitude, this predeterminer and determiner of all subsequent communication? Attitude is non-verbal communication of safety or danger, of judgment or acceptance, of open or reserved manner. Just think about how you feel when you meet someone who is open, warm, and offers you a real smile. Now think about how you feel when you meet someone who is reserved, cool, and stingy or tentative with their smile. If you have a good imagination, you probably felt the difference immediately inside of you.
But attitude not only works its power in the beginning, it is always influencing communication in the background throughout a relationship. Think of people you work with or live with. Already you have an opinion of them based on their attitude. With that in the background, you’ll either want to interact with them more, or you’ll want to avoid them. You’ll either feel like helping them when they need it, or let them “twist in the wind”. You’ll either feel like giving them a smile, or you’ll dread them. Based on attitude, you’ll either feel comfortable or defensive around them. Attitude is that quick and that powerful. So we want to develop attitudes that promote good communication, attitudes like openness, friendliness, helpfulness, receptivity, warmth, acceptance, attentiveness, etc. Without these positive attitudes, no matter what we say afterward will lead to better relationships and greater love and respect, much less conflict resolution.
The Biggest Impediment to Good Attitude and Great Communication
If we pay attention to the chattering going on almost constantly in our minds, we’ll discover that they are always passing sentence over what they see. “This is good. Oh, that’s bad. I like this, but I hate that, This person is cool. That person’s an ass.” In fact, we all have a part of our minds that frequently judges what it sees. But about now, our minds are probably saying: “Yeah, but you don’t understand. He really is an ass.” Right? But if we read above about attitude and its importance to communication, we’ll realize that judgements give us a terrible attitude towards the person we judge. And don’t think he or she won’t know that we’re judging them. Judgements communicate in the blink of an eye. They are part of what…ATTITUDE. Yes, that funny thing about us that is recognized instantly by the other person and begins then to develop or destroy good communication.
The Difference Between Judgements and Evaluations
OK, but you can’t expect me to stop evaluating things. I mean, I do have a mind. I’m not stupid. I can tell when something’s right or not.
It’s true. We do have minds and we can know right from wrong. But it’s what we do about right and wrong that decides rather it’s a destructive judgement or a neutral evaluation. Judgement is more than a simple evaluation. It’s moral superiority, contempt, and the desire to punish the judged person for being so wrong, bad, or inferior that makes it more than an evaluation and turns it into a harmful judgement. “It says here that he only has an IQ of 85. We can’t put him in the advanced class.” Now if I just say that matter of factly, without adding in moral superiority, contempt, and the desire to punish, I’m simply evaluating. Plain and simple. Our minds are designed to evaluate. It’s how we’ve survived all these centuries.
But now watch: “ He’s a dummy. Can’t have an IQ above 85. Let’s ignore him.” Notice that the person saying this feels morally superior. He even has some form of disrespect, even contempt for the person. The judge is smart. He’s superior and better, much better than the dummy. And because the dummy’s inferior, he deserves to be punished by getting him the hell away from us. Now suppose you come home to me and you pick up judement in me. Would you want to communicate with me? Would you think I have a good attitude for our marriage? Would you even want to be around me? I don’t think so. Did you know that when a married couple gets to the point of feeling contempt for each other, the marriage is dead, even if the couple stay together for the sake of the kids or out of economic necessity? When we feel judged, we start to avoid each other and dread coming home. We “politely” ignore each other. How well will our love relationships and marriages do if we pretend that other person isn’t even there?
So, what’s the single best thing we can do to become a great communicators? Keep our evaluations working. We can’t stop them if we tried. But give up judgements. Don’t indulge in moral superiority, contempt, and the desire to punish people because we think they are so wrong and inferior. Do not judge. If we find ourselves judging, let it go. Let’s remind ourselves that evaluations may be true, but judgements never are. If the only thing we did was stop judging, people would feel safe around us, would be more open and cooperative with us. Want to be a great communicator? Change your attitude. What’s the fastest way to change your attitude from wretched to wonderful? Give up judging. Incidentally. Whenever we see someone who is judgmental, especially if it’s us, we’ll notice that inside and outside are the same. That is, if I judge outside, I’m judging myself inside. And if I judge myself inside, I’m judging you outside. People who judge live in a self-perpetuating hell. Eventually, everything, including the judge, is held in contempt.
Communication is attitude. Good communication is good attitude. Good attitude is letting go of judgments. Without judgements we will communicate for the love we want.