It always surprises me when I learn a practical life skill in class. Does that sound anti-academic? I don’t mean it to.
A lot of the knowledge I gain from my classes is interesting and it usually helps me to understand content from other courses I’m taking, but usually this information has little importance in life outside the classroom or academic circles.
I realize that if you are a humanities student like I am that this is par for the course. It’s more about rounding out your knowledge than learning one specific skill that you might want to use in the “real world”. So, you’ll understand why I was so shocked to learn something useful in class last week.
I’m currently taking a class in communications and conflict resolution. It’s one of those rare practical humanities courses. In class we learn how to communicate and resolve conflict more effectively.
I wonder why courses like this aren’t a part of any humanities degree. I’ve heard it more times than I can remember, a Bachelor of Arts degree is about finding your voice, about becoming a critical thinker, and about becoming more articulate. It seems to me that this is all about communication.
The focus of better communication is always on attention. It’s about learning how to pay attention to what matters. This skill is exactly what is needed to accomplish those three goals of a Bachelor of Arts.
One way to practice this is through meditation. It’s about forcing yourself to pay attention to the little things and turn your busy brain off for a few moments. This is so much harder than it sounds. So it’s not so odd that this should be practised in class too.
I still find it off-putting to go into class and meditate. It’s a hard thing to get used to when you’re accustomed to sitting in lecture halls and having little to no contact with the instructor. However, I’m coming to understand that this course is the one that’s going to help me when I go to find a job after school. It’s also the course that will help me to maintain good relationships with my future co-workers. I always find it disheartening when I’m trying to talk to someone and they are obviously distracted. It’s hard to have a conversation with someone nowadays without them checking their smartphones. Meditation helps you learn to focus on the person you are listening to. I’m always surprised how great of a reaction I get from people I’m listening to when I give them all my attention…I mean really pay attention to what they’re saying. When you do this future employers and co-workers will take notice.
If you don’t have the opportunity to take a course like this during your undergrad, there are a plethora of books on the subject. The one I’m reading is called “Interpersonal Communication: Relating to Others”. It’s a really easy to read How-to guide to learning effective communication skills.
If I could sum up what I’ve learned about communication so far in one useful sentence, this would be it: Communication is much more about learning than talking.