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Notes on communication theory Notes on communication theory
by Joseph Gatt
2020-09-02 10:28:09
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Random notes on communication theory, including in business, politics, in times of conflict and for fundraising purposes.

-To sum up (if you don't want to read the whole article) good communication is about having a decent level of honesty and openness.

-There are basically two categories of people and organizations. There are those who despise honesty. And there are those who value honesty.

-Let me start with the more difficult part: discussing, debating or negotiating with parties who despise honesty.

comn001_400-How do you recognize people who despise honesty? They tend to make open communication difficult.

-For example, those who despise honesty will ask you to call them, make the phone conversation very brief and frustrating. Then they'll ask you to send the rest of your thoughts via email, and they won't read the email. Then they'll tell you they want to discuss the whole thing in person, and they'll show up drunk, or they'll show up with a group of cronies and will switch conversation to their cronies the minute they don't like what they're hearing. Then they'll ask you for a report that they won't read. Then they'll ask you to dust off their desk, vacuum the carpet and mop the floor before negotiations can move forward. You get the idea.

-So there are several means of communication when you're dealing with people who despise honesty.

-In times of crisis, as in war, conflict, disputes and so on, the idea is you want to pause for a bit. I would suggest that you could take a few days, weeks or months (this is called strategic patience) where you avoid communication, and wait for something to happen (something always happens) before you resume communications in that context.

-For example, in times of war, the dishonest army could lose a huge battle, and beg for negotiations to take place. For couples who are fighting, a family emergency could lead negotiations to resume. For business negotiations gone wrong, a new law or a new banking system could trigger negotiations to resume.

-What do you do during the strategic patience period? Do you use complete silence, or do you communicate in cross-sections. That is do you use “messengers” to send messages to the enemy, or do you use propaganda, or do you find someone to relay messages, or do you use complete silence?

-In my experience (I could be wrong) complete silence can work in some dangerous cases, in cases where the enemy is waiting for a message to identify a weakness and attack. In 2011, I lost (or won, depends on the context) a battle and knew I had to keep my mouth shut (which I did until January 2014) and avoid public statements, because the enemy would have used the messages to identify my position. By January 2014, that enemy had forgotten about me, I would think.

-But, there are situations where the dialogue with the enemy just has to go on. Now the enemy won't take honest conversation, won't take the truth and straightforwardness. So you could use propaganda and psychological campaigns, but that could backfire and the enemy could seek revenge. Or you could relay messages to the enemy, wait for the enemy to reply, and reply back.

-Seducing the enemy. During the Cold War, the American media had created this character named Henry Kissinger. Kissinger was appointed NSA (National Security Adviser) in 1969, and was an almost cartoonish character, a mixture of high intellect and serial womanizing in Hollywood. Now because the Soviet elites were secret Hollywood movie fans, and the Soviets admire their Tolstoys and Dostoyevskis, Kissinger was used as a character to seduce the Soviets, and the Soviets were seduced, but then so were the Chinese. So through a mixture of high philosophy and dates with high profile Hollywood actresses, Kissinger enabled the opening of a dialogue with the Soviets and Chinese which led to détente. That's one example of communication.

-In normal situations, negotiations with dishonest people often fail, unless you're willing to get involved in their dishonest schemes. Sex and money are usually two things that dishonest people really have in mind, and if they're not feeling they're getting sex or money or both, they're not going to move forward with the job interview/business negotiation/political negotiation.

-So if you're not willing to give up sex or money or both, I suggest you cut relations with that weird person (or people) you were dealing with. That is, especially if you're a woman, don't think you're going to win the negotiation by working on the makeup and perfume and outfit to get a better deal. That could lead to dangerous situations, because if they want sex (or money) it's going to be very hard to fool them.

-In fundraising, same rule applies. Dishonest people are usually interested in sex and money and will usually deliberately slow down fundraising negotiations so they will see what they can get in exchange for their “donations.” I would say don't insist on trying to get donations from those people. Those people will usually donate only if you can rig the game in their favor (by changing laws for example) or if you can destroy their competitors or something.

-Now to dealing with honest people (the world is full of honest people, although they are not always visible). Honest people usually write clear emails, will give you almost all the information you need on the phone, and will be clear about most things in conversation.

-Some people like to “fake” honesty and I've dealt with those people. People who “fake” honesty usually tell stories that mirror your stories. That is if a guy (or girl) is constantly agreeing with you and constantly seems to be telling you what you want to hear, be careful.

-In sum, honest people will share the good, the bad, and the ugly. If someone is only sharing the good with you, and swearing that there is no bad or ugly, there could be deception involved.

-In business negotiations, when dealing with honest people, the conversation will usually flow around the good, the bad and the ugly. Same goes for political negotiations. Information will be shared, memories will be shared, examples will be given. And if they don't know, they'll say they don't know.

-Watch out for the trap: we are individuals and honest conversation involves being comfortable with who we are as individuals. If your negotiating partners seem to be giving up their individuality to create an individuality that comes closer to yours, watch out.

-This happens a lot in dating, but also in business, on the job market, in politics and elsewhere. That is the guy will “pretend” to have the same likes and dislikes as the girl, but three months into the relationship, the girl finds out the guy has completely different likes and dislikes.

-In sum, a lot of people fail at politics or business or relationships because they are not comfortable with the individuality they invented themselves to “try to fit in” to the game. I had my ups and downs in politics, but “hung in there” because I was comfortable with who I was as an individual. If I was trying to hide stuff (for example, hide the fact that I'm an adoptee or something) that stuff would have been used to blackmail me and I would have bowed out in shame. 

-In fundraising, if you're dishonest about the reason you need the money, people are not going to make big donations, if they donate at all. If you're seeking donations for your “project” so you can hang out at the best night clubs in town, people will always notice the clues (albeit subconsciously) that you're seeking money to spend it at fashionable night clubs, or on drugs, or both.

-So in fundraising, you're going to have to tell an honest story to get honest people to donate. There are a lot of honest people out there, who know an honest cause when they see one, and if provided with enough information, they will donate enough funds.

-Final tip: honest people usually go on two dates. Not one date, and not three dates. That is if you're negotiating in business, politics or fundraising with someone, some will sign a cheque immediately. But most will want to wait and think about things and ask follow-up questions at a second date before they sign a cheque. If they want to wait more and ask to see you for a third date, now things could be getting a little weird.

-Good luck communicating!

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