Daily Archives: May 13, 2010

Levels of communication

Communication it either works for you or against you.  In most of our daily conversations our words and the depth of our conversations don’t really go very deep.   We spend much of our conversational time in a high level of conversation, superficial conversation, for the most part.   Maybe it is a talk about the weather, or how the kids performed in the soccer game, or how many potholes are in the road.  Conversations that don’t involve a shift of ideological concept remain pretty superficial; these conversations are tame and safe for the most part.

One level below superficial conversation are interactions that may contain debate or challenges to a position that is deeply held.   When conversations are at the debate level there can be strong disagreements where deeply held values are challenged but not relinquished.   Conversations at this level can erupt into misunderstanding, conflict, anger or in extreme cases violence.  

A level 3 conversation is what happens when someone is willing to listen, to step outside of their comfort zone and let a new idea challenge their own values or beliefs.   This doesn’t mean that a value or belief is changed it just means that one person is willing to listen to the points being made that are different than their own strongly held ideas.   When there is openness to new ideas and constructs that gives all participants in the conversation the ability to bring up new ideas and at least have an honest review of the ideas and concepts without having to defend the position. 

The final level in this model is a conversation that is without judgment where ideas, opinions, concepts can be talked about freely.   It takes maturity on part of all the participants to enter into a conversation at this level.  The goal is to build up ideas and add to thoughts without being critical of any idea or position.   This is additive conversation, a place where new insights are born and created.   Sometimes brainstorming enters this level of communication, especially if there is generative feedback rather than critical feedback.  At this level energy continues to rise and the best ideas and thoughts continue to grow.  This level is a place where creativity flourishes and would be considered an advanced form of communication.


Note:  The communication construct is based on ideas promoted by C. Otto Scharmer and Theory U.