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Aaron Moritz - Competent Communication - Z-Day, 2012 (Repository)

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Our next speaker is actually another local person here. He came from our Edmonton group. His name is Aaron Moritz, and Aaron Moritz has been active in The Zeitgeist Movement since 2009. He was first with helping to coordinate the Edmonton Chapter before moving to Vancouver and joining our team here in Vancouver. He became known in the Movement following a popular series of web videos, released under the title of 'The Infinite Yes,' promoting a Resource-Based Economy and related subjects. He is also an administrator of The Zeitgeist Media Project website and an editor for The Zeitgeist Movement Official Blog, so without further ado: Aaron. [Applause] Everyone, so I think I've got a treat for you guys, which is a short presentation. I was going to be splitting the time with another presenter, Brandy Hume, but she couldn't be here today, so I'm going solo. Today I'm going to be talking about what it means to communicate effectively and competently, and I'll be coming at that from a couple different angles. The Zeitgeist Movement is, on the most fundamental level, an effort of communication. We are an organization existing with the specific purpose of promoting and helping to initiate the implementation of a more efficient and scientific social framework. It is a mouthpiece of a very specific train of thought that we propose as a mechanism of cultural change, which I think is best summed up by the premise of "applying the scientific method to social concern." We attempt to spread the values of sustainability, efficiency and scientific-based decision-making into the cultural Zeitgeist. As such, our primary focus right now needs to be on the effective communication of the ideas backed up with supporting lines of thought, the demonstration of their necessity and, of course, the facts and evidence, all of which are of the utmost importance. However, as important as they are in establishing the substance of the ideas, in many, if not in most communication scenarios facts, information and evidence mean next to nothing if there is not also respect, connection and clarity. Facts are necessary but not sufficient tools for communication because when a person feels criticized, judged or blamed it becomes hard for them to hear past the judgment. They may feel provoked into defensiveness or counter-aggression rather than a mutual sharing of ideas. True communication efforts can only be built on the basis of connection by two parties willingly and gladly interacting for the purpose of contributing to each other's knowledge and well-being. Communication by its very nature is a two-way street, and besides the fact that listening, instead of just waiting for your turn to talk, is the nice and respectful thing to do, it's also strategic. Remember, communication requires respect, and if you are not interested in considering the points-of-view of others in full, you should not be surprised when they do not want to consider yours. Showing that you listened and understood before making your point will make a world of difference. This applies, of course, in any situation but it is especially true when you are discussing heady topics such as society, sustainability, economics, behavioral biology, automation and all the other fun stuff we tend to focus on when talking about a Resource-Based Economy. It is good strategy to understand what other people are saying because then you have the ability to consider their arguments in full and respond properly to their concerns, rather than slipping into some repetitious rut, reciting rhetoric or a pre-memorized spiel. That type of preaching of any message gives the impression, whether true or not, that you haven't understood or haven't bothered to consider the other person's position. If you are met with evidence or arguments that you can't account for, you owe it to both them and yourself, not to dismiss it or attempt to explain it away, but to admit areas in which you need to do more research. A large part of building respectful communication is what we are feeling or intending when we enter into an exchange. Are we making an honest communicative effort, speaking from a true enjoyment of exchanging information and helping others to learn, and learning from them; or are we simply looking for an argument, exuding anger, hostility and contrarianism? People will notice the difference and reaching an understanding is far less likely under the latter conditions. An honest communicative effort is far more likely than an attempted argument to inspire true critical thinking. This means paying attention to yourself and your reactions as well as paying attention to the other person. Now to be clear, attempting to create a connection doesn't mean we have to try to be everyone's best friend or to pander by compromising our facts or misinterpreting the truth, misrepresenting the truth, sorry. Far from it, this type of inauthentic communication can be picked up on and will also reduce connection and mutual respect. Don't shy away from areas of disagreement, but always keep in mind there's no need to turn the conversation into a pissing contest. Attempting to win an argument also presupposes your own correctness. This is an ultimate example of talking at someone rather than talking with them. If instead your goal is to elicit conversation and critical thinking, you will more often find yourself participating in exchanges that will vary from fruitful to, at the very least, interesting. Remember that even someone who vehemently disagrees with you is at the very least thinking about the issues you've presented which is an important first step in a world where life duties and the media can keep people fairly shielded from real pressing issues. Sometimes, establishing or maintaining a respectful connection can be difficult or nearly impossible and will often result in the creation of what can be called an 'enemy image.' An 'enemy image' happens when one person ceases to appreciate the humanity in the other and instead is focused on the perception of everything they don't like about your ideas. Erecting an enemy image is a way to distance oneself from the other, safely feeling that there is something wrong with them. When two people do not feel respectfully connected as two human beings involved in a mutual exchange they will be more prone to caricaturing the position of the other, stereotyping their arguments, erecting straw men [fallacies] or lumping them into this group or that, under this label or that. For example, Martin Luther King was derided by detractors for being a Communist. So, I'd like to take a minute to talk about Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, who has developed a technique called 'Non-Violent Communication.' In his own words: "Non-Violent Communication guides us in reframing how we express ourselves and hear others. Instead of being habitual, automatic reactions, our words become conscious responses based firmly on an awareness of what we are perceiving, feeling, and wanting. The form is simple, yet powerfully transformative. As Non-Violent Communication replaces our old patterns of defending, withdrawing, or attacking in the face of judgment and criticism, we come to perceive ourselves and others, as well as our intentions and relationships, in a new light. Resistance, defensiveness and violent reactions are minimized. When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion. Through its emphasis on deep listening, to ourselves as well as others, Non-Violent Communication fosters respect, attentiveness, and empathy and engenders a mutual desire to give and speak from the heart." Non-Violent Communication warns against moralistic language and labels: words like right, wrong, good, bad, selfish, unselfish, terrorists, freedom fighters. All these words involve judgments based on what we feel people 'are' or what they deserve. Taking into account the socio-biological fact that every person's actions are firmly related to their conditioning and environment, the idea of moralistic judgment, even positive judgment, becomes useless and possibly even harmful. The great philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti stated that "To observe without evaluating is the highest form of human intelligence." Always stick to respectful dissemination of the information, the evidence. Evaluations do little but to obscure clear observations and statements of fact. Speaking without judging or evaluating the other person is far more difficult than one might imagine; it takes practice. Remember, of course, that in speaking of evaluation, I'm not dismissing reasoned, logical evaluation of ideas and premises, but rather I argue against moralistic judgments of a personal nature. Sometimes the two can be confused. A person who does well in today's system may unconsciously take the simple observation that 16,000 children currently starve to death each day from inadequate distribution of food resources, as a personal insult. They may feel compelled to defend the system not on its own merits but because they feel personally identified with it. There is often little that can be done to prevent these types of misunderstandings except for a clearly stated distinction. Also, it is often preferable to word such observations as positive statements rather than negative ones. For example saying "We have the technology to feed each and every one of the 16,000 children currently starving" may be a more effective statement in many cases. Now, I'd like to take a few minutes to discuss 'General Semantics.' General Semantics is a discipline that was originated by Alfred Korzybski in his book 'Science and Sanity.' I know Matt will be touching on this subject as well in his talk, so I will be brief. The core realization of 'General Semantics' is that our language has evolved with some severe flaws in its practical use because much of the language we use does not properly reflect the physical world around us. In other words, much of our language lacks a physical referent: something in the world that we can point to that the word refers to. Besides the failure of creating connection and a failure of respect, the next biggest problem common to much communication is the assumption that you have been understood, or even that both people mean the same thing when they use a word. The problem exists on a sliding scale. For example, the word 'pencil' has a fairly specific physical referent. When I say 'pencil' you can bet I'm probably talking about a thin tube of wood and graphite with a bit of rubber on the end or maybe one of those plastic mechanical pencils, but what about the word 'communism'? It is completely possible that two people could carry on an entire conversation never reaching agreement and also never even knowing that by 'communism' they are talking about two completely different ideas. The term 'communism' is what is called an abstraction. Communism doesn't exist as a unique physical entity in the real world; and therefore, to get any real sense of what is meant by the word, more information must be gathered. For example, are we talking about Communism as described by Marx or Trotsky or Kropotkin? Are we talking about Communism in philosophy or in practice, as practiced by the Chinese or by the Russians, Russian communism under Lenin or under Stalin? To know that we are specifically talking about Communism as practiced by Stalin in the 1950's gets as much closer to an actual physical referent for one particular meaning of the word 'communism'. Without such clarification, any communication on this idea is basically spinning its wheels. Now, before I finish I'd like to give a quick example of how not expressing a physical referent behind our statements can lead to confusion, even among people who essentially agree with each other. Person 1 might say: "We need to implement more technology in order to increase our ability to meet people's needs and become truly sustainable." While Person 2 argues: "Technology harms our environment and allows humans to murder on a mass scale. We need less technology, not more." Both people in the conversation are against the way technology is currently being used to pillage the planet, and both only want to see technologies used that will have less negative impact and more positive impact on our lives. Few people who argue against the use of technology want to literally stop using all technology, and few people who argue for technology favor its indiscriminate usage without regarding the environment. Both people in the previous statements agree that the only technology that should be used is that which does not harm the balance of the ecosystem, and they're just focusing on different uses of the word 'technology.' Person 1 was referring to more sustainable technologies, while Person 2 is talking about our current destructive and military technologies, but if neither side clarifies what they mean by 'technology,' they will be left feeling as if they disagree when in essence they don't. Thank you. [Applause] Thanks a lot for that, Aaron.

Video Details

Duration: 13 minutes and 50 seconds
Year: 2012
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: TZM Vancouver
Director: TZM Vancouver
Views: 192
Posted by: ltiofficial on May 13, 2012

Aaron Moritz, producer of 'The Infinit Yes' video series, talks about respectful and competent communication at Zeitgeist Day 2012 in Vancouver, Canada..

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