Good communication gains, bad communication loses. Marshall McLuhan, a great philosopher of communication theory, considers any communication as an extension of oneself. For him the medium is the message. The focus needs to be on the medium rather than the message. In my over 45 years of counselling, psychotherapy, mediation and conflict management, I have experienced it is not what I said but how I said that had the most desired effect. It is not really the content of communication but the process of communication that really mattered. The process of communication relates to one’s non-verbal language such as body-language, tone, pace, emotional intensity, and a healthy detachment. Body language may involve facial expression, posture, and general demeanour.
A loud and trained strong voice of mine was an advantage for me in my younger days, especially in public speaking when a loudspeaker was rare. Now my strong, loud voice is a disadvantage. When I talk in my natural, loud voice my wife and others sometimes ask me if I am angry when I am certainly not angry. I was certainly intensely involved and passionate in advocating for my cause. There are times when in the midst of our communication my wife tells me that I am putting her down, and why am I yelling. As I do not like to put anybody down or yell at anyone, and as I in my hurt challenge her to tell me what it is that I said that made her feel put down, her invariable response is: “It is the way you said it”. She is definitely talking about some intangible medium or often inscrutable expression that, for me anyway, does not easily lend to any kind of rational analysis.
I wanted to find out how Mahatma Gandhi was so effective in his communication with the British. I listened to a rare specimen of his recorded speech. I watched several times Attenborough’s precious Oscar winning movie “Gandhi “ wherein Oscar-winning Ben Kingsley acted beautifully as Gandhi. In his conversation or talk Gandhi spoke in a dispassionate way. His tone was low; his pace was slow. He was certainly engaging. He did not lack in conviction. He certainly was not an orator. His speech almost said let the truth of his cause stand. He was resigned to whatever happening. He was not there to score a point or win an argument or make a particular impression. He was plain in his un-adorned speech as he was unshakable in his resolve. His communication coming from his un-daunted spirit and his strength continuously fed by his spiritual source prepared him to be the one-man army on the border of then East Pakistan while millions of persons, both Hindus and Muslims, were slaughtered on the western border. Shall we then pay more attention to how we say what we say? Many times the way we communicate with empathy makes the difference between winning and losing.