Book Summary: “Messages: The Communication Skills Book” Part I & II

I re­cently started read­ing Mes­sages: The Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Skills Book. So far, this book seems ex­tremely helpful for just about any­one who has to in­ter­act with their en­vi­ron­ment. Even more so for as­piring effec­tive al­tru­ists try­ing to track truth col­lec­tively.

Every sec­ond page, I thought: “I wish I would have learned this when I was 10.” or “Alice would have a much eas­ier time com­mu­ni­cat­ing if she read this sec­tion.” or “Bob would be much less frus­trated if he un­der­stood this con­cept.”

Hop­ing to make the value of read­ing it even more salient to you, I de­cided to sum­ma­rize some of its con­tent. The book is well-writ­ten and rich in con­tent and I don’t ex­pect to do it jus­tice. You should re­ally just flip through it your­self.

It in­cludes many effec­tive and quick ex­er­cises that help to trans­late its les­sons into your life. I will not tran­scribe the ex­er­cises nor all ex­am­ples. Really, just go and read the book.

But okay, here are Part I & II out of VI; the ac­tual try to con­vince you to read it:

Part I: Ba­sic Skills

1: Listening

You think you listen prop­erly. You prob­a­bly don’t. Ac­tu­ally, you prob­a­bly suck at listen­ing. Here are a bunch of ex­er­cises to as­sess how much you suck at listen­ing. [N.B: Ex­er­cises omit­ted, tone overly ex­ag­ger­ated, essence pre­served.]

Rem­edy: no­tice that you’re not *re­ally* always listen­ing. Aware­ness is the first step.

Keys to be­com­ing a bet­ter listener:

  1. When­ever a point seems rele­vant to your dis­cus­sion, para­phrase it to make sure you un­der­stood and to show what/​how/​why you un­der­stood.

  2. Ask clar­ify­ing ques­tions to un­der­stand the con­text and demon­strate your in­ter­est.

  3. Give feed­back by sup­port­ively shar­ing your feel­ings, thoughts, or hunches.

Prin­ci­ples for good listen­ing:

  • Em­pa­thy (ev­ery­one’s (prob­a­bly) just hu­man)

  • Open­ness (can you pass their ide­olog­i­cal Tur­ing test?)

  • Aware­ness (do check for con­gru­ence and a story’s fit with facts)

2: Self-disclosure

You will always dis­close parts of your­self. Might as well do it prop­erly to get the most out of it. We’re talk­ing about sexy benefits like:

  • Self-knowledge

  • Intimacy

  • Com­mu­ni­ca­tion depth

  • Less guilt (fun trivia: that’s why re­li­gious con­fes­sion is such an em­pow­er­ing thing)

  • En­ergy (from not con­stantly hid­ing your­self)

Awe­some! But if it is so great, why don’t we just do it?

  • So­cietal stan­dards of not talk­ing about per­sonal top­ics out­side of a close circle

  • Fear of

    • Un­pleas­ant truths (about our­selves);

    • Ex­plic­it­ness (the pos­si­bil­ity to be held to our word); and of

    • Skewed rep­re­sen­ta­tions of our­selves (too nega­tive/​com­plain­ing or pos­i­tive/​brag­ging).

Open­ing up is hard and it only gets harder. With in­creased age, self-dis­clo­sure usu­ally de­creases. Find­ing the right bal­ance is hard, too. It is hard to always be ap­pro­pri­ate. There’s a later “Assess­ment” sec­tion in the book to help analyse situ­a­tions. But gen­er­ally, prac­tice makes perfect.

[N.B.: You can break stan­dards and dy­nam­ics if you have slack. I am learn­ing to err on the side of dis­clos­ing my­self too early rather than too late. More dis­clo­sure always, at least, leads to more self-knowl­edge. Less self-dis­clo­sure yields fewer op­por­tu­ni­ties for dis­clo­sure in the fu­ture. Self-dis­clo­sure also is the most effec­tive way to gain long-term slack.]

Prac­tice self-dis­clo­sure:

  1. Talk about some­thing on an ob­ject-level with­out your feel­ings and opinions.

  2. Share thoughts, opinions, feel­ings on top­ics of the past.

  3. Comfy with 1 & 2? Prac­tice in-the-mo­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tion, one type at a time:

    1. Give feed­back on how an in­ter­ac­tion is mak­ing you feel;

    2. Share your cur­rent needs;

    3. Say that you’re slant­ing a story to make your­self look bet­ter;

    4. Com­mu­ni­cate whom you feel at­tracted to in that in­stant; or

    5. Share what you want to achieve with this con­ver­sa­tion.

3: Expressing

There are four cat­e­gories of ex­pres­sion. All need differ­ent vo­cab­u­lary and style.

  1. Ob­ser­va­tions: sim­ple facts (from a sub­jec­tive per­spec­tive)

  2. Thoughts: con­clu­sions, judg­ments, inferences

  3. Feel­ings: emotions

  4. Needs: State­ments about prefer­ences and utilities

Whole mes­sages in­clude all four cat­e­gories. Par­tial mes­sages work in some set­tings but omis­sions are always risky.

Mis­la­beled com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­duces con­tam­i­nated mes­sages. They of­ten de­velop through faulty in­to­na­tion. Make sure to ex­plic­itly la­bel the differ­ent cat­e­gories and state them sep­a­rately.

Pre­pare messages

  1. Self-aware­ness: through in­tro­spec­tion, analysis

  2. Aware­ness of the other per­son: at­ten­tively analyse your audience

  3. Place aware­ness (be­ing over­heard raises the risk of con­tam­i­nated mes­sages)

Rules for effec­tive expression

  • Directness

    • Don’t as­sume peo­ple know what you think/​want

    • Hints will get misinterpreted

  • Immediateness

    • Nega­tive things be­come ir­ri­tants with time

      • Pas­sive-ag­gres­sively slip into communication

    • Even­tu­ally, a minor trans­gres­sion trig­gers a ma­jor dumping

      • Ex­plo­sions alienate peo­ple further

  • Clarity

    • Com­plete­ness (whole mes­sages)

    • Don’t ask a ques­tion when you have a state­ment to make (am­bigu­ous)

    • Con­gru­ence of con­tent, tone, and body language

    • Avoid dou­ble-mes­sages that can cause psy­cholog­i­cal dam­age (“come close, go away”)

    • Be clear about wants and feelings

    • State un­der­ly­ing pro­cesses, not their results

    • Dist­in­guish ob­ser­va­tion and thought to avoid contamination

    • One thing at a time – fo­cus and note confusions

      • What are we re­ally talk­ing about?

      • What do you hear be­ing said?

  • Straightness

    • The con­tent of a con­ver­sa­tion has to be its purpose

      • No hid­den agen­das or dis­guised in­ten­tions that de­stroy in­ti­macy and are not re­lat­ing but manipulating

    • Avoid van­i­ties that could feed hid­den agendas

      • Don’t pro­tect your­self, it causes dis­con­nec­tion and distance

    • Be truthful

      • Don’t over- or un­der­state (don’t “just be nice”)

  • Supportiveness

    • You want to com­mu­ni­cate, not ag­gran­dize your­self or hurt somebody

    • Don’t make oth­ers listen­ing ex­pe­rience up­set­ting/​defensive

    • Don’t use:

      • Global la­bels like “you’re dumb”;

      • Sar­casm;

      • Dig­ging up the past;

      • Nega­tive com­par­i­sons (“why aren’t you like …”);

      • Judg­men­tal you-mes­sages (“you never ..”, “you don’t …”),

      • Threats (“I will quit”).

    • Avoid games (“who’s right/​wrong?”, “who’s the win­ner/​loser”)

The goal should be close­ness through mu­tual un­der­stand­ing, not a spe­cific out­come x. Stick to whole mes­sages and state your “now” sen­ti­ments. Con­tin­u­ously em­ploy­ing such effec­tive ex­pres­sion brings ad­van­tages:

  1. Learn­ing and ad­just­ment through di­rect feedback

  2. In­ti­macy, in­ten­sity, and ex­cite­ment through trust

Part II: Ad­vanced Skills

4: Body Language

Intro

  • You can­not not com­mu­ni­cate. 55% of your mes­sage is your body lan­guage (mostly fa­cial ex­pres­sions).

  • On top of your move­ments, spa­tial re­la­tion­ships (how far you stand away etc.) mat­ter a lot.

  • The key to clear mes­sag­ing is con­gru­ence. Be­come aware enough of your­self to no­tice in­con­gru­ences be­tween your words, move­ments and in­ter­nal states and cor­rect them.

Body move­ments (ki­nesics)

Body lan­guage is learned and differs from cul­ture to cul­ture. Tune into some­one else’s body lan­guage to help com­mu­ni­ca­tion (un­der­stand what they im­ply). Body lan­guage illus­trates and reg­u­lates communication

  1. Fa­cial ex­pres­sions high­light emo­tions and attitudes

  2. Ges­tures can be made with arms & hands, but also legs and feet (for ex­am­ples, read the book)

    1. Play around: try not to ges­ture at all or ges­ture while listening

  3. Pos­ture and breath­ing

    1. Re­laxed breath­ing = open, straight pos­ture = confident

    2. Deep breath­ing can help to con­nect with your emo­tions and to take action

    3. Imi­ta­tion of the some­one else’s breath­ing and pos­ture can help to re­late to them

    4. Fast deep breath­ing can also help you wake up

Gen­eral ad­vice: ex­per­i­ment, ex­er­cise and be aware!

Spa­tial Re­la­tion­ships (prox­emics)

The book sug­gests a model of roughly 4 zones around bod­ies with vari­a­tions of dis­tances:

  1. In­ti­mate zone (when in­vaded, feel em­bar­rassed or threat­ened)

  2. Per­sonal (still pos­si­ble to touch, for pri­vate dis­cus­sion)

  3. So­cial (close & far sub-phases; in­ter­per­sonal/​dom­i­nant & loose/​un­co­er­cive yet open)

  4. Public (close sub-phase for e.g. teacher-class set­tings & far for e.g. celebri­ties)

The dis­tances vary from in­di­vi­d­ual to in­di­vi­d­ual and cul­ture. Dou­ble stan­dards/​differ­ences in in­ter­pre­ta­tion be­tween male & fe­male are com­mon.

In this con­text, it is also noted that peo­ple have their “ter­ri­tory”—usu­ally their flat/​room: a marked space for which they tend to have a re­flex to defend.

5: Par­alan­guage and Metamessages

  • Par­alan­guage: vo­cal com­po­nent; pitch, res­o­nance, ar­tic­u­la­tion, tempo, vol­ume and rhythm

    • Re­veals a lot about who you are and how you feel

  • Me­tames­sages: an ex­tra level of mean­ing cre­ated through the choice of words, phras­ings and rhythm

    • E.g. “We like you” vs. “We like you, of course.” (em­pha­sis on ‘we’ an­tag­o­nis­ti­cally po­si­tions oth­ers and ‘of course’ im­plies a form of doubt)

Paralanguage

Depend­ing on your per­sonal and your cul­tures baseline, there might be large dis­crep­an­cies in in­ter­pre­ta­tion of par­alan­guage.

  1. Pitch: moves with feel­ings (more ex­treme → more in­tense feel­ings)

  2. Res­o­nance: deep = con­fi­dent; thin = weak

  3. Ar­tic­u­la­tion: enun­ci­a­tion; pre­cise pronunciation

    1. slur/​drawl might im­ply com­fort but clear speech is effective

  4. Tempo

    1. slow = thought­ful or indifferent

    2. fast = per­sua­sive or unsettling

  5. Vol­ume
    Gen­er­ally also used for/​in­ter­preted as sta­tus sig­nal­ling in set­tings where sig­nal­ling is ex­pected (e.g. pro­fes­sional life)

    1. loud = en­thu­si­asm & con­fi­dence or over­con­fi­dence/​aggressiveness

    2. soft = care/​trust or in­fe­ri­or­ity/​unimportance

  6. Rhythm: em­phases change mean­ing: “Am I happy!” vs. “Am I happy?”

Chang­ing paralanguage

Record your­self and listen to it. Get used to hear­ing your­self, get over it, then analyse.

  • Does your voice re­flect what you want to say?

  • Is it con­gru­ent with your words?

  • Is there some­thing you dis­like?

Ex­per­i­ment and prac­tice with a recorder un­til you got it down. Ex­er­cises:

  • Body-vo­cal stretch: learn to play with your voice

  • Vol­ume mod­u­la­tion: un­der­stand your reach

  • Ar­tic­u­la­tion & tempo: re­cite loud, slow and exaggerate

Metamessages

  1. Ba­sic level: in­for­ma­tion through se­ries of words

  2. Next: info on at­ti­tude, feel­ings through para- & body language

    1. Often the source of in­ter­per­sonal con­flicts be­cause it causes irritation

    2. Sub­tle & am­bigu­ous (hard to defend against)

Be aware of your own metames­sag­ing and learn to rec­og­nize your feel­ings & han­dle oth­ers’ feel­ings and metames­sages.

  1. Rhythm & pitch: look at how sen­tences change de­pend­ing on how you pitch them.

    1. E.g. “I’m not go­ing home with you.” vs. “I’m not go­ing home with you.” vs. “I’m not go­ing home with you.” vs. “I’m not go­ing home with you.”

  2. Ver­bal modifiers

    1. Covert barbs/​re­jec­tions/​ac­cu­sa­tions/​dis­mis­sal/​con­fir­ma­tion in oth­er­wise sim­ple state­ments of fact

    2. “Cer­tainly”, “only”, “now”, “sure”, “again”, “sup­pos­edly”, “of course”, “I guess”, or quan­tifiers like “a lot”/​”a lit­tle”

Cop­ing with metamessages

Goal: Cut the bul­lshit. Stop guess­ing in­tent and learn to talk straight. Get con­ver­sa­tions to a rele­vant, open and hon­est level.

Afraid to say some­thing? Say it di­rectly to have a smaller chance of covert re­tal­i­a­tion.

Feel at­tacked? Some­thing’s am­bigu­ous? Con­fused?

  1. Re­peat mes­sage in your head and analyse.

  2. Say out loud what you think the mes­sage is.

  3. Ask if that’s what they think/​feel.

6: Hid­den Agendas

Why: to pro­tect your frag­ile ego.

How: by or­ches­trat­ing an image around a sin­gle theme.

What: kill in­ti­macy.

If you have an agenda, it’s im­pos­si­ble to be your­self be­cause you con­stantly need to prove a point. Here are 8 of them:

  • “I’m good”—look at my un­de­ni­ably fine character

    • You don’t trust any­one with the parts of your­self that are any­thing less than wonderful

    • Peo­ple get bored with good stories

    • You can’t get close be­cause no one knows your issues

  • “I’m Good (But You’re Not)”—ev­ery­one else is stupid

    • Goal is to prove that you’re all right

    • Your state­ments about your ac­tions are of­ten im­plied crit­i­cisms of oth­ers not do­ing similar

    • Can boost self-es­teem but the price is that oth­ers feel put down

  • “You’re Good (But I’m Not)”—my in­com­pe­tent/​sad self needs love/​protection

    • Goal is to ex­tract fa­vors or strokes, buy in­fe­rior re­la­tion­ships, ward off anger/​re­jec­tion, or block de­mands/​ex­pec­ta­tions

    • You flat­ter or even wor­ship oth­ers in di­rect com­par­i­son to your­self, ac­tively putting your­self down

  • “I’m Hel­pless, I Suffer”—why does this always hap­pen to me?

    • Goal is to re­in­force your hope­less situ­a­tion, to not have to change

    • Bond­ing hap­pens via hurts to find peo­ple who will re­in­force your view

  • “I’m Blame­less”—look at what you made me do

    • Goal is to not be held ac­countable for difficulties

  • “I’m Frag­ile”—I have been be­trayed and wounded in the past

    • Goal is to avoid hear­ing the harsh truth

  • “I’m Tough”—I work harder, faster and longer than any­one else

    • Goal is to ward off hurt and pro­tect a frag­ile self-esteem

      • Fear of re­jec­tion and un­sure of worth

    • Pay off is ad­mira­tion and as­surance that you won’t be criticized

    • Peo­ple won’t ask you for much be­cause you’re so busy

    • You’re in con­trol and above reproach

  • “I Know It All”—I can prove my adequacy

    • Goal is to pre­vent (re)en­coun­ter­ing ex­pe­riences of shame at not knowing

    • Peers learn soon that they can’t be heard or ap­pre­ci­ated as any­thing but audience

Agen­das serve two func­tions:

  1. Build & pre­serve your ex­is­ten­tial po­si­tion.

  2. Pro­mote ul­te­rior mo­tives & needs

Agen­das are adap­tive and serve a pur­pose but ul­ti­mately in­hibit self-dis­clo­sure. The ex­er­cises and much more de­tailed de­scrip­tions in the book help to iden­tify agen­das.

7: Trans­ac­tional Analysis

This chap­ter is a sum­mary of Eric Berne’s work. He sug­gests that peo­ple act from three differ­ent ego states:

  • The parent

    • Men­tal col­lec­tion of rules and in­struc­tions for the child that had no way of pre­dict­ing dan­ger and no knowl­edge of the ways of the world

    • Sup­posed to be good and helpful and provide struc­ture for your life, but de­pends on your ac­tual par­ents’ ways (puni­tive vs. sup­port­ive)

    • Iden­ti­fi­able through com­mands and value judg­ments (words like “never”, “always”, “stop”, “perfect”, “ridicu­lous” etc.)

  • The child

    • Your urges to know, feel, touch, ex­pe­rience the world

    • As a product of con­fronta­tions with parental man­dates, it con­cludes early on “I’m not okay” (ex­presses in var­i­ous ways, de­pend­ing on ac­tual par­ents, can be healthy)

    • Where emo­tions reside, a lot of exuberance

  • The adult

    • The part jug­gling the child and the par­ent states, pro­cess­ing parental ad­vice and in­fan­tile needs to make decisions

    • Can be over­whelmed/​con­tam­i­nated by the other states

    • The healthy adult knows par­ent & child well but func­tions in­de­pen­dently, while com­mu­ni­cat­ing ex­plic­itly with­out block­ing out, or giv­ing up con­trol to, ei­ther of them

The fo­cus of Trans­ac­tional Anal­y­sis is to strengthen the adult. For that, you need to an­a­lyze your com­mu­ni­ca­tions (many ex­tremely use­ful ex­er­cises for this are found in the book).

  1. Learn to rec­og­nize your par­ent & child states by de­vel­op­ing an ear for the lan­guage they use.

    1. The puni­tive par­ent com­mands, ac­cuses and at­tacks with crit­i­cal and eval­u­a­tive lan­guage.

    2. The not-okay child com­plains, pouts and func­tions as a vic­tim.

    3. The adult makes clear state­ments with­out blam­ing and with­out whin­ing.

  2. Un­der­stand the differ­ent pos­si­ble kinds of trans­ac­tions be­tween the roles.

    1. Com­ple­men­tary: sent & re­ceived by each per­son stay­ing in one state (e.g. par­ent—child or adult—adult)

    2. Crossed: ad­dress­ing an ego state that the other per­son isn’t in (adult think­ing they are talk­ing to an­other adult who re­ally is a par­ent talk­ing to a child)

    3. Ul­te­rior: os­ten­si­bly talk­ing from and to cer­tain states while ad­dress­ing an­other (this is what Berne calls “games”, see my sum­mary of his book “games peo­ple play” for more ex­am­ples)

  3. Keep your com­mu­ni­ca­tions clean.

    1. Know the ego states from and to which you are communicating

    2. Be con­sid­er­ate of the child—yours & others

    3. Don’t use your puni­tive parent

    4. Solve prob­lems with your adult and give it the time it needs to get on top of things and pro­cess what re­ally needs to be said

8: Clar­ify­ing Language

You don’t ex­pe­rience the world di­rectly. You ex­pe­rience your model of it. Every­one has their own model of re­al­ity. Models can be awfully differ­ent. Models can re­strict or dis­tort re­al­ity and limit our life.

La­bels we put on mod­els do not tell much about the model. The same la­bel rarely refers to ex­actly the same model in two differ­ent minds. Cer­tain uni­ver­sal lan­guage pat­terns do one of three things:

  • Keep peo­ple from un­der­stand­ing your model.

  • Keep your model of the world limited.

  • Keep your model of the world dis­torted.

Un­der­stand­ing a model

Differ­ent peo­ple draw from very differ­ent ex­pe­riences. Words rarely mean the same thing in other minds. Four lan­guage pat­terns pre­vent un­der­stand­ing:

  • Dele­tion (ma­te­rial that’s been left out of a sen­tence)

    • Listener usu­ally au­to­mat­i­cally fills in gaps with own assumptions

    • To clar­ify, ask for the miss­ing in­for­ma­tion (“I’m happy/​con­fused!” → “About what/​whom?”)

  • Vague pronouns

    • E.g. “It’s un­be­liev­able/​un­fair/​wrong!”; “They say x causes can­cer.”

      • To clar­ify, ask “What is un­be­liev­able/​un­fair/​wrong?” or “Whose re­search shows that x causes can­cer?”

  • Vague verbs

    • E.g. “I grew a lot last year.”; “My par­ents forced me to be­come a doc­tor.”

      • To clar­ify, ask “How did you grow? Taller? Heav­ier? Wiser?”; “What did your par­ents do to force you into medicine?”

  • Nom­i­nal­iza­tions (nouns that give the false im­pres­sion of be­ing con­crete)

    • E.g. “our re­la­tion­ship”; “the prob­lem”; “your guilt”; “this dis­cus­sion”

      • Often, all par­ties have a con­crete idea of what is meant. Rarely is it the same.

    • E.g. “let’s make a de­ci­sion.” in­stead of “let’s de­cide on how many bed nets to pay for”

      • Re­plac­ing verbs with nouns rarely adds speci­fic­ity.

    • To clar­ify, either

      • De­mand a spe­cific defi­ni­tion of the nominalization

        • E.g. “I need at­ten­tion.” → “What kind of at­ten­tion do you need?”)

      • Ask a ques­tion us­ing the nom­i­nal­iza­tion as a verb

        • E.g. “I’m feel­ing dis­ap­proval.” → “How do you feel dis­ap­proved of?”)

Challeng­ing the limits of a model

Three lan­guage pat­terns ar­tifi­cially re­strict ex­pe­rience:

  • Ab­solutes (over­gen­er­al­iza­tions, e.g. “always”)

    • Challenge by ex­ag­ger­at­ing fur­ther (“always and for­ever?”)

    • Challenge by ask­ing whether they have had one con­tra­dic­tory experience

  • Im­posed limits (sug­gest­ing no choice, e.g. “have to”, “it’s nec­es­sary”)

    • Broadly two cat­e­gories:

      • Ex­clu­sion of op­tions (“I can’t, “it’s im­pos­si­ble”)

      • Mo­ral im­per­a­tive (“must”, “should”)

    • Ques­tion limits by ask­ing “What would hap­pen if x?” or “What stops you from x?”

  • Im­posed val­ues (gen­er­al­iza­tion based on a per­sonal model, e.g. “that’s junk”, “he’s stupid”)

    • Peo­ple who rely on this pat­tern are typ­i­cally un­aware of other possibilities

    • Challenge by ask­ing “to whom does he seem stupid?” or “For whom is that junk?”

      • Forces peo­ple to own their opinions & val­ues and ac­knowl­edges that there are other viewpoints

Challeng­ing dis­tor­tions of a model

Three lan­guage pat­terns dis­tort re­al­ity:

  • Cause-and-effect errors

    • The be­lief that Alice can cause you to ex­pe­rience in­ner state x and you have no choice about how she will feel

    • Challenge be­lief by ask­ing whether a causal con­nec­tion ex­ists or whether there are al­ter­na­tive re­sponses.

      • E.g. “I’m anx­ious be­cause you’re leav­ing” → “How does my leav­ing make you anx­ious?”

    • Re­mind peo­ple that they are re­spon­si­ble for their feel­ings and gen­er­ate their own re­sponses.

  • Mind reading

    • The be­lief that you can know what some­one else is ex­pe­rienc­ing with­out di­rect communication

    • Leads you to form be­liefs that are sim­ply un­true, as many of your pro­jec­tions are likely to make you a vic­tim of the typ­i­cal mind fallacy

    • Mind-read­ers usu­ally don’t no­tice that oth­ers are ex­pe­rienc­ing the world differently

    • Challenge them by ask­ing “How do you know x?”

  • Presuppositions

    • State­ments that must be true for a claim to be valid

      • E.g. “since you got jeal­ous the last time we went danc­ing, let’s not go again”; “I’m in se­ri­ous trou­ble, so I need an im­me­di­ate ap­point­ment.”

    • Challenge the as­sump­tion (“in what way did I ap­pear jeal­ous to you?”; “In what way is the trou­ble se­ri­ous?”)

Some fi­nal clarifications

Ask for too many clar­ifi­ca­tions and peo­ple will get an­noyed. How­ever, sur­round your­self with the kind of peo­ple whom you can challenge when their state­ments:

  • Don’t make sense;

  • Are vague; or

  • Miss some vi­tal piece of in­for­ma­tion.

[n.b. ergo, ask for clar­ifi­ca­tions and challenge all the time. You will be an­noy­ing be­cause your per­spec­tive is limited. You’re a mon­key. Sur­round your­self with mon­keys who suck it up. And you your­self suck it up, too.]

Con­sis­tent use of un­helpful lan­guage pat­terns in­di­cates that the speaker’s model of re­al­ity is limited or dis­torted. Be gen­tle with peo­ple and ex­plore with in­ter­est, not hos­tility.

How to know a state­ment is in­com­plete? You may feel puz­zled, see an in­com­plete pic­ture, some­thing doesn’t sound or feel right. Avoid jump­ing to con­clu­sions too quickly and try to clar­ify. Don’t fill holes with your own model right away, try to un­der­stand the speaker’s.

Many more ex­er­cises and ex­am­ples are found in the book.