Flying home from Denver last week, I caught a movie that I had never heard up prior to the flight. While my neighbors watch 'Get Hard' for the umpteenth time, I watched 'The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet'.
The movie was full of differing communication types, and interactions throughout. As for the communication the best place to start might be with T.S.'s sister Gracie. Gracie was a teenage girl who dreamed of 'getting' out of there. She dreamed of getting to New York, and making it big in theater, or anything that got her out of Montana. At one point when her brother T.S. receives a phone call, T.S. misleads her, and says the call was from a communication company in New York. This infuriates his sister, probably part of the plan, and we get a depiction of what is going on in Gracie's head. Inside her head we see eight Gracie's at a round table discussing every thought going through her mind at that moment. The thoughts ranging from soul crushing to supportive. She decides to go with the former, and T.S. walks away satisfied as the taughting words from his sister hang in the air. Her go to tag for him of "spazz" the heaviest.
T.S. mother and father have a unique relationship as polar opposites. Yet, they are very much alike in their ability to be present, yet fuly distant. His mother was comsumed in her job of classifying crickets, and other bugs. So much so that even in the rare occurence of a phone call, Gracie's life line on the farm, she forgets to mention to T.S. that someone is on the line waiting. Until Gracie asks about the call, and she is reminded of the call and the waiting party. The father and mother have interactions, but they are usually the touch of hands while passing in the hallway that say the most. The mother determines from the dinner table, without any words, that she is no longer loved. This deducted by the lack of glances in T.S. direction. T.S. being much like her, and the fact that he pretty much ignores T.S. altogether at the table, ultimately means that he does not love her. All this was kept in a journal, the place where she captured all her internal communication. A place where she worked it all out on paper, not to be shared, but to be heard.
His father is seen as a great cowboy, a rancher who treats his family much like his goats on the farm, and only interacts when absolutely necessary. T.S. brother Layton was Dad's favorite. He got all the pats on the back, and even the unthinkable, Dad put his cowboy hat on Layton. T.S. deduced that this was an impossibility for him. And when he comes up with ways to assist his father on the ranch, like building a scale model of the ranch and its water flow patterns. He is dismissed quickly and curtly with a "that's just piss in a can" reference. His words are hurtful, but there are hints of a softer side. He releases a goat trapped in barbwire, and when his goats get into the barn and eat some of the misses imported grubs, he defiently tells her "don't even set a place at the table" if that is how she felt. He has a place, but refuses to join them. Rather he sits in the rain with his head down, perfectly positioned to be visible from the window, waiting for an invitation to come back in.
The deepest of the internal communication is within T.S. His internal discussions are the highlight of much of the movie. His internal decimation of his school teacher, thoughts about his parents relationship, exchanges between him and his father, and even his ongiong communication with his brother Layton. What we see is that when T.S. is away from home, he becomes ever more outspoken and confident. This is first shown at the Butte Museum where he boldly proclaims he is the one the host has been looking for. The one who will take up the torch on perpetual motion. He is quickly dismissed with a messing of his hair by the lecturer.
As T.S. steps out on his adventure, he leaves behind a note to his family. A note that proclaims how he "did not want to bother" them by telling them ahead of time. Was is the bother or the dismissal of the idea that kept him from sharing? Either way, he follows his dream, and in doing so he relys on his wit and budgeoning confidence that carries him on. During the journey we see another side of T.S. A side that is open and willing to talk, challenge adults (outside of his head), and even have conversations with strangers. It is all built up to his big moment at the Smithsonian when he is to accept his Baird Award. He get up in front of the award crowd, a crowd that mostly stayed away from him prior, and drops a story that seems to be completely unrelated on them. A story not by a ten year old, but by one who has grown well beyond his years. An equal to many of them in intellect and experience, as delivered by his speech. In the end it was his inner strength and courage that freed his family to do the same. All the kind words he dreamed of hearing, and created in his head finally came to fruition when he let it all out. After his speech, witnessed by his mother, unbenounced to him, she had the courage to defend herself and T.S. during a television show. His sister then followed after the show and shared how proud of T.S. she was, not to mention a trip out of Montana! And a crucial interaction with his father, where his first words lovingly confronted his son on his being 'deaf and mute'. In a way he realized that he was being deaf and mute to a son who needed him, and broke out of this in a big way with a smile, piggy-back ride and even a cowboy had that went beyond all realm of possibliity, even where T.S. was strongest, in his own mind.
Many times these internal conversations keep us captive. Much of our self-talk is negative and defeating, but sometimes in the right personality, it can be what get's us through to the next day. I think we can all agree though, that words are meant to be shared. When we share the negative words we take away their power, and in opposite fashion, when we share words of love and kindness we encourage ourselves and the ones we have the courage to share them with.
I somewhat recently came across this interesting talk by Uri Hasson on our brain patterns during communication. This talk is great, even if a little bit hard to understand (subtitles did wonders). In Uri's talk he explained that he is a researcher of the human brain, who uses an FMRI scanner to see brain patters durning communication between individuals.
What his team found was that good communicators produced a better alignment between the listener and speaker. The production from the talker's brain patterns were almost identical to those of the listener and their comprehension. Basically, it came down to a more engaging speaker had the ability to bring others into the story, and align their brain activity with the speakers. Scientifically this is called Neural Entrainment. Socially speaking we would say something like "are you tracking?" or "are you following me?"
What is more important in this discovery is the obstacles to tracking along with another. Things like word association, common ground and shared beliefs. In Uri's examples they tested the common ground, or word association, with an example from the BBC show Sherlock in reference to a 'hackney carriage' vs. the more common 'cab' reference in the United States (he may need to update this one with the development of Uber and Lyft) The point is that just a single word could throw a conversation off track, and cause a misalignment in not only the conversation, but have a negative effect on the comprehension of the interaction. Additionally, they also experimented with additional information introduced prior to an interaction to see how it affected conversations. Interestingly enough, a simple sentence could mean the difference between alignment and misalignment. In his example is was a difference between empathy and derision.
What does this all mean, and why does it matter? Mostly, it just confirms how the brain works, mostly just like we thought it did. People with like beliefs are drawn together and will typically enjoy each others company because they are connecting on a common ground. This common ground gives them an initial positive interaction, that continues to strengthen over time, and if there are breakdowns in communication, they are typically able to overcome them due to their ability to connect quickly. Conversely, those with opposing views, beliefs and ways of thinking are likely to push each other way, and not align in their interactions. One of the most influential points in Hasson's story was where his team provided some backstory around a subject prior to introducing. In the case of the Salinger book, they were able to sway a group's way of thinking, or interpreting, during an interaction through providing some backstory. The problem with this information was regardless of its validity, it had the ability to sway whole groups ways of thinking. This reminds me of a verse on gossip. There are nineteen verses in the bible on gossip, but I think this one from Ephesians pretty much sums it up. To paraphrase 4:29 says: Let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouths, only words of edification for that time and those around you. This take on a whole new level of meaning when you see how much it influences the way one thinks. It falls right in line with other lines of wisdom like " you usually find what you are looking for." When we are looking for fault or good in someone we usually find what we need to justify our initial read on them. This comes through in our interactions and typically with dictate where the conversation ends up.
Would love to hear/see your comments on this below. Even better, share some examples of interactions where you have experienced this while interacting with others at your place of work or in your home.
3, 2, 1...
Blastoff! First blog post of the site so, naturally it is to be a bit more personal than some future ones may be. This is the launch of Archetype. A venture out from the confines of a safe corporate job, with a top organization. The type of thing most people do not do, especially without a big group of customers lined up at the door.
Obviously I am here doing it, and that begs the question why. I had marquee birthday recently, and something shifted within me. Not the typical three year desire to do something else, this was bigger, much bigger. It was a desire to do more. A desire to help people beyond the company I was working for at the time, beyond the industry I was in, beyond the reach of my neighborhood, beyond the reach of my city. This desire to do more came from somewhere deep inside me, and it was not going away.
After some thought, and putting in some side work, a plan started to come together. A plan that involved coaching others on how to interact and work together through a better understanding of themselves, and in the way they communicate. When I had a session together, I reached out to a friend and asked about speaking to his team. It was in an industry I was unfamiliar with, with people I did not have any relationship with, at a place I had never been. Things went well, and I was not given any preferential treatment, nor was my friendship with their manager disclosed. After the session I received some positive feedback and glowing reviews of the content and method.
This was all great, but not much had changed. Then, about six month later I ran into one of the individuals from the session I had led, and they recognized me. It was not only a surprise to me that I was recognized, but the feedback was a bit overwhelming as well. She told me how great the session was for her, that her husband's company needed to go through it as well, and then added that companies everywhere could use my help.
I am not going to say that was all the motivation I needed to give this a shot, but it sure helped. So, here goes nothing!
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29.11