Successful people decide and act differently than unsuccessful ones. There is overwhelming evidence that successful people decide quickly and rarely change their minds. Unsuccessful people take a long time to decide and are always changing their minds and often feel anxious about the rightness of their decisions. My recent experience at a yoga class not only reminded me of this reality but highlighted something important about communication.
I recently joined a new six-week yoga program. Fifteen people started but by the second week only three, including myself remained. Maybe the others found yoga not to their liking or by some coincidence each found themselves facing other commitments that didn’t allow them to continue.
The teacher said she had not heard from the non-attendees and the committed people, including myself entered a lively debate about what they non-attendance was communicating. Several questions arose:
- Were the non-attendees lazy or people who give up easily?
- Were they rude in not advising the teacher or their colleagues of their actions?
- Because the purchase of the classes was a transaction, does this give the purchaser the right to not take responsibility for explaining the impact it might have on the teacher or other people in the group?
- What are the implications for creating community where people see an intimate setting of a class as a business transaction which, after payment, the purchaser can decide whether to use or not?
- Would story telling of the remaining few be different if the non-attendees where to call and explain their actions or apologise?
All these questions and more point to the individual meanings and story telling that occur in social interactions. Depending on each person’s subjective meaning and existing worldviews, their interpretation will be different. Here are some suggestions of those different perspectives:
- Some, longing for community and connection might be saddened by the transactional way in which a customer acts in such an intimate group.
- Another may be unaffected, believing each person has paid in advance and therefore is the only one to suffer if they do not take advantage of the whole product/service.
- Generational differences might occur with younger generations believing the consumer can do what they like, whereas baby boomers might tend to think there is greater responsibility for affecting the feelings of the teacher who has put a lot of effort into preparing the class.
- Some may be disappointed and point to a wider breakdown in societal values that put a commercial overlay on personal actions, believing instead that personal integrity is at stake when not advising others of their actions.
The list of possible meanings is probably infinite. What it does point to is that whatever we do is communicating something very powerful to others and might be very different to what we intend.
As observers, we place meanings on others’ behaviour, which is always highly subjective. It reminds us to pay attention to times when others are left to their own interpretations because we have not specifically communicated our actions to others or assume they place similar meanings as ourselves on what we and others do.
Communication is much more than an exchange of information. It is a highly subjective process that reminds us that communication is a complex process, linking to what we believe we and are others are. We cannot experience other people’s experiences but we can ‘experience them experiencing us, experiencing them… and so on’.
In order to communicate more effectively, we must each be open to others’ different worldviews and take steps to tell others what we mean, for without this there is potential misrepresentation of ourselves which impact on the quality of all our relationships.
How we act also has implications for our success. If we are anxious and unsure about decisions, constantly seek feedback in order to choose, this communicates something very important to others about who we are and what we are capable of. If we have clear goals, a passion about what we are doing and act in accordance with those convictions, it communicates a stronger message and others respond and collaborate with us differently.