The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Grounding in communication

Communication is a word that has become one that describes everything and nothing.

Which makes It a fun subject for “grounding in communication”.

Should I seek to discuss communication I would set out to start with a definition my partner in discussion could agree with. A possible definition I could put forward would be: “everything that relates to human interaction”. Once shared, I would wait to see how the other reacts. A possibility would be to receive a question asking for more precision in my definition. Another possibility would be to receive a sign of acknowledgment for my definition.

With these three simple methods, I’ve just described how groups reach a state of grounding criterion. It is a mutual belief between conversational partners that everyone involved has a clear enough understanding of the concept discussed to move forward.

It starts with putting forward a definition as a new contribution to a conversation. The reaction looked out for is some expression of confusion. If the reaction is an assertion of acceptance it’s possible to assume that we are on common grounds. If the reaction is a request for clarification confusion showed. At the same time, it is a reaction showing that we are working together to establish a common ground.

Using the three methods “new contribution”, “assertion of acceptance” and “request for clarification” don’t establish any guarantee that the conversation will be effortless and fully understood. Experience has shown, that misunderstandings will continue to exist.

What it shows is more essential. It is that an effort is needed to enable a team to move forward. It’s an effort in making sure all team members have a common understanding of what is being discussed. A well-known example of such an effort used to establish common ground can be found with the Apollo 11 mission.

Concepts like grounding in communication seem to be natural to humans. But actually, it is only is by making such concepts visible that we start to see the effort needed to establish effective communication.

Grounding in communication helps to coordinate content and process in communication.

Going further, personality type models like the Process Communication Model and personality theories like Transactional Analysis assist in dealing with the how of communication. They allow for ways to connect content and process beyond grounding.


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