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The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun

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9.2. A basic model of communication

Despite how often we communicate with people, we rarely step back and dissect what's actually happening. Because most of us have never been taught or trained to understand what's going on when people communicate, it's not surprising that we run into problems frequently. Very few people in the workplace have any real proficiency in diagnosing communication or relationship problems, or have the necessary authority to sort them out. However, it is easy to learn a simple framework for what the goals of communication are—from a project management perspective—and apply it to daily situations. With this knowledge, you can break down where things are failing and become more capable of resolving problems because you'll have a better understanding of what's not working.

"Good communication centers around highly developed individual awareness and differentiation. A good communicator is aware of both internal processes in themselves, and external processes in others."

—John Bradshaw

In the simplest framework I know of, there are five basic states (outlined shortly) that any act of communication can be in.(3) Each is progressively more important and harder to achieve than the previous state. Communication is successful only if it reaches the third state (understanding), if not the fourth (agreement) or fifth (action). To help illustrate each state, I'll use an example from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey: Dave, an astronaut, is in a small spacecraft and wants ...

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