San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Ten-Cubed Rule

I am not positive but I believe it is possible I might have come up with an original idea.  I know that there is nothing new under the sun but every once in a while some brilliant people come up with a way to repackage an old idea and it sounds new.  I think I might have stumbled upon such an occurrence, although I hesitate to pronounce myself brilliant as a result.  So let me tell you about my idea and you can decide for yourself.
One of the things I have noticed over the years is how horribly inefficient human communication is.  It is not that human communication must be inefficient.  It does not have to be that way because most of the impediments to accurately conveying an idea from one head to another are not found in the objective world.  The things that keep people from understanding each other are to be found in the subjective realities in regard to each individual and each individual's ability to comprehend.  For example, one of the Welsh rules of human inter-personal communication is that all people exclusively think and talk about themselves.   This is not a difficult rule to see in operation.  Simply listen to anything that passes for a human conversation for more than a couple of minutes and you will see the truth of this rule in action.  The air may be filled with words but the people engaged in the communication are really carrying on a conversation only with themselves, not with each other.  Each sentence is an "I" statement designed to tell the other person how great I am.  The person speaking with me interrupts to give me his "I" statement while I am thinking about the next "I" statement to make.  Quite naturally I do not hear him but, if I am a gifted conversationalist, I will nod my head in such as way to convey to him the idea that I have actually paid attention to what he said.  Also rather naturally I fail to notice that my conversation partner is not paying any attention to what I am saying since I am so absorbed in what great thing I am next going to tell him about myself.  It is easy to see how this sort of conversation conveys no meaningful information at all.
After a day of speaking with other people last week I was reconsidering the Welsh rule and how faithfully I had executed it throughout the many conversations I had had that day.  As I was thinking about the rule something else occurred to me.  Even if people are making valiant efforts to behave counter to the Welsh rule of inter-personal communication it is still almost impossible to ever accurately convey an idea from one human head to another.  As I considered it it seemed to me that there are three insurmountable barriers to all human communication.  I put those three barriers together to form what I call the Ten-Cubed Rule of human communication.
Without further ado, here is the Mad Welshman's Ten-Cubed Rule:  "All people only hear 10% of what I say; and all people only understand 10% of what they hear; and all people only care about 10% of what they understand.  The net result is that only .1% of what I say is ever heard, understood and valued by the people with whom I speak."  There are several corollaries that are associated with the Ten-Cubed rule.  Here are a couple of them:
Corollary # 1:  If I want people to understand what I am trying to say, even in the best of circumstances I am going to have to repeat myself one thousand times prior to expecting a successful transmission of my idea.  Conversely, people are going to have to hear something one thousand times before they understand what is being said.
Corollary # 2:  The best of circumstances rarely, if ever, occurs (see the original "Welsh rule") so effective communication between human beings where one person accurately conveys a valuable idea successfully to another human being almost never takes place.
Corollary # 3:  Most of the time, unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, it is best to keep my mouth shut and simply listen to what everyone else has to say.  If I listen long enough I might actually learn something.
Applying the Ten-Cubed Rule and its various corollaries can occasionally create some socially awkward situations.  I say "occasionally" because most of the time, due to the original Welsh rule, the person who is talking to me never notices that I am not speaking back.  Most of the time, at least in my experience, I am deemed an expert conversationalist when I have, in fact, never uttered a single word.  On those rare occasions when the person talking to me actually realizes what is taking place a brief, but awkward, silence usually takes place.  It is that moment I realize I have been found out.  I am actually listening and the other person knows it.  That is extremely uncomfortable for most people so I will usually make a quick "I" statement to get the non-stop stream of consciousness pouring out of the other person's mouth to start up again.  Most of the time that technique works, but sometimes it does not.
When my "I" statement fails to get the other person started I realize something unique is taking place.  It is then I realize this could be one of those one in a thousand opportunities for an idea to pass from one human head to another.  When I become aware of that special situation I will make a bold and daring move and ask a question of my fellow conversationalist about something he has said.  We have now come to the critical junction in the process of communication.  How he responds to the question will determine everything from that point forward.  As expected, most of the time he will quickly answer the question with a barrage of "I" statements and we will never return to that moment again.  But sometimes things do not go as expected.
Sometimes the person with whom I am speaking will answer my question and then, to my shock and surprise, follow it up with a question for me.  This rare and magical moment is almost unknown in human inter-personal communication.  When it happens I always want to stop and savor the moment, but I can't because if I don't say something the moment will pass, likely to never return again.  So I will offer an answer and then follow that up with another question for him.  If this is indeed one of those one in ten thousand moments a conversation will ensue in which we each talk about ourselves and each other, thereby learning new things and passing back and forth ideas we value.  If this goes on for very long a new state of affairs develops.  When this process takes place repeatedly over time something happens that very few human beings ever experience...a friendship forms.
Most people live their entire lives without ever having a real friend.  That is because of the truth of the Welsh rule and the principle of Ten-Cubed and its corollaries.  I only bring these things up because if you ever want to have a true friend you might want to consider the things I have written.  But then again, the Ten-Cubed rule practically guarantees I will have to write this at least one thousand times to get through to you and I am not about to do that.

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