Four Things that can Cripple your Communication Without you Knowing

Amygdala location in each hemisphere of the hu...

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And communication makes or breaks everything you do. Everything.

So this might be a little bit important to you (and to everyone around you), maybe. I don’t know. You’ll have to decide that for yourself. ;)

In case you missed my last blog post, there are four levels of communication that work like a gradient from Devastatingly Crippling to Explosively Empowering. Most people work in the first two levels almost exclusively, only breaking out into the higher forms by accident now and then — unless they have invested loads of time and thought and training into developing the skills necessary to deliberately avoid the toxic airs of the first two and live in the fresh, catalysing airs of the second two.

I want to teach you about those first two, at least right now. Why? Because you need to start somewhere; because the rest is too big for this article (it will be coming soon, though, don’t worry); and because they are the foundation for every improvement you can make in communication.

I can’t even aspire to the herculean attempt it would take to exhaustively elaborate the entire depth and breadth of even this vastly smaller scope, though. I am here merely to show you something – something simple, something small, something you can do right now. The whole art and science of communication will have to wait. ;)

If you haven’t read my last blog post, go read it now, seriously. I am building on what I said in there, and although this post will help you even if you haven’t read the other one, it will make a whole lot more sense. So go read it. One… two… three… Go.

So here I go! …you may need to hold onto your hat.

The first two levels of communication are Pretense and Sincerity (last chance to read the other post!), as you should remember. ;) The last two are Accuracy and Authenticity. There is one, huge, fundamental difference between these two halves of the communication spectrum, and that difference is what I am going to spend all my time in this post talking about.

The difference is a little thing called bioreaction.

I am guessing you probably have never heard that word before this moment, at least in this context, which is fine ’cause this definition isn’t in the dictionaries yet. I didn’t make it up, the Communication Catalyst guys did. And it really does make a lot of sense.

Bioreaction is basically a biological system that has a single goal in mind: deal with threats fast.

That’s it. And that is really a super valuable system to have, especially if someone leaps out of nowhere at you and slashes at you with a knife. You need to respond fast. And the normal system the brain uses for making decisions is waaaaay to slow for what is needed. So what the brain has is a special spot devoted solely to this function: it is called the amygdala.

What this bit of your brain does is filter outside input for perceived threats, and as soon as it sees one, take command of the brain and choose one of four options for a rapid response. It is lightning fast at this (well probably faster than lightning, but you get the idea).

But here is the thing: it has only four options. Which makes sense… it can’t be spending time filtering through all the millions of possible reactions to pick just the right one. So it has four preprogrammed premises for action that it chooses from.

These premises for reaction to perceived threats are: Fight, Flee, Freeze, and Appease.

Simple, right? Perfectly simple. God is really good at designing these things. So basically what the amygdala does is takes a perceived threat and evaluates it based on these four options to figure out which would best deal with it.

For example: if a big huge guy leaps out of nowhere and slashes at you with a knife.

Appease is out – the guy is already committed to the attack, and no time to hand him a cookie.

Freeze is out – that knife would plow through you like butter.

Fight is out – taking on that giant would probably get you killed worse than before (if that is possible).

So obviously the best recourse is to flee the scene at rates exceeding human probability. It’s your best shot at living.

See how this works? Handy, isn’t it?

But notice how I have been saying perceived threats this whole time? There is a reason for that. See, the amygdala can’t actually know if something is a threat or not until after it has already passed. Which isn’t the right time to respond to it. So it has to guess based on your experience and filters whether or not something is a threat, and then act on that perception of reality.

The problem is when it is wrong. When it thinks something is a threat… and it really isn’t.

This happens all the time in communication. Why? Well because in communication you are opening up a part of yourself to the other person. It is a fundamental and inescapable fact of every relationship you have. That in and of itself can be perceived as a threat to some people (stage fright, anyone?). But if someone does something that happens to look even the slightest like an attack on you as a person, it doesn’t matter if it was intentional or accidental, real or fake, true or false – the amygdala will pick up on it and limit your whole brain to those four options: fight, flee, freeze, or appease.

None of which are going to help in the slightest to resolve the perceived conflict.

Conversations are a work of collaboration and sharing of mutual value, not a fight. And even if someone is attacking you, the four bioreactive responses aren’t going to make it better – they will almost inevitably make it worse!

Not good.

Those first two levels of communication, Pretense and Sincerity, are built on bioreactive responses. That is why they are so damaging to your effectiveness and to your friendships… and to your friends.

Pretense is where there is a direct conflict between what you think and what you are saying and doing. Generally this is characterized by things like lying, evading, and withholding information. These actions come directly from the motivations of fighting, fleeing, freezing, and appeasing. Most people who do these things aren’t being malicious at all (they might not even be conscious of it at all): they are merely defending themselves. Mistakenly, yes, but mistakes are common and easily forgivable.

So if someone is behaving with these towards you, first forgive them, and then choose to not respond in kind with a bioreactive response of your own!

Sincerity is pretty much the most common place for people to reside in. People think it is a good place. They justify it in tons of ways (often defensively, with bioreactions, haha). And honestly, I don’t blame them. Getting sincerity from someone is a huge blessing (it’s loads better than pretense), and expecting more borders on meanness (accuracy and authenticity are a ton of work to develop).

But it still isn’t the best, and it still cripples your success. Teams can function on sincerity, yes, and so can friendships. But they are walking on ice. Their boat is leaking. They are up a stream without a paddle. Okay I’ll stop. :P :D

Sincerity is an honest report accompanied by the conviction that what you believe to be true is true. Basically it is untested opinion pretending to be reality.

Just like the amygdala, isn’t it? It responds to perceptions as if they were real, and then acts on them without testing to see if it is right. Good for some situations – bad for communication. The idea of someone who is sincere is to be honest and defend their honest position.

The problem is that value isn’t being generated, and people get hurt and opportunities get lost forever. Why? Because opinions isolated from the experience and learning of others is crippled in its search for truth. You don’t want to be wrong, and so you don’t learn. And in the process of bioreactively defending your position, you trigger other people’s amygdalas, and you create an atmosphere of defensive animosity rather than one of collaborative friendship.

Not. Good.

So what do you do? Well the first step is to start noticing when your amygdala fires up, and then take your brain back over from it, so you can choose to learn rather than spit out a bioreaction. This takes a lot of practice, but it is completely worth it.

Basically you just need to ask a question that the amygdala can’t answer. Train yourself to notice the signals that a bioreactive decision is being made (for example: your jaw might clench, your eyes look at a certain corner of your eye, certain phrases go through your head, or you start to use one of the bioreactive responses), and then introduce a consideration beyond the amygdala’s scope.

Such as purpose. Or value. Ask yourself what your fundamental purpose is that you are there for, and then ask what would be the most valuable thing you can do in this situation towards that end. Ask yourself what purpose the other person is there for, and then look for a way to provide value to both his and your purposes.

That’s deep. That’s tough. That is transforming. It will explode your potential and the potential of everyone around you. Try it!

And yes, again, I wasn’t able to really go as deep as I would have liked to, but again, you get to ask questions. ;) So have at it. :)

P.S. This post was originally posted (with some slight differences) on the Holy Worlds Christian Fantasy Forum. I honestly believe that community is one of the best in the world. So check it out. :)

A Gift that Could Change Your Life

A speedometer using kilometres per hour. (km/h...

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Greetings,

I have something to share with you, that has been on my heart and mind for a long time. After much prayer and preparation, I want to present some information to you, that will dramatically improve your life — way beyond what you can imagine. I am asking that you take it to heart and implement it into your actions and life. I don’t normally ask that of my readers… but this is exceptional: it is worth it.

I did not invent anything I say here. I have learned it from men and women who are experts in communication and relationships. What I have integrated into my life has changed it powerfully for the better, and played a large part in my successes. Some of what I say here is paraphrased, some quoted directly from a book called Communication Catalyst, by Mickey Connolly and Richard Rianoshek. I wish I could make that book required reading for everyone I know, but I can only give it the highest recommendation.

Communication drives life, and if used properly, can exponentiate success in every area of your life.

True communication is a network of conversations, linking separate lives into a larger system.

A true conversation is a language cycle that causes perception, meaning, action, and learning. Think about that. If a conversation does not bring those into existence or furthers their progress, it has not fulfilled its purpose. That is its goal, and should be ours. Life is a vast world of conversations, and so this is vitally important to every one of us.

Any conversation can be measured, indicating how well it is working towards those goals. I will show you all a meter by which you can measure conversations.

Any conversation fits into one of four quadrants, measured as 0-25, 26-50, 51-75, and 76-100, like on a speedometer. It is, in fact, very much like a speedometer. The higher the number, the faster, the more efficiently, and the more effectively you are traveling towards your goals and bringing about value.

High numbers are good, just so you know. ;)

So what are these four kinds of conversations?

We can call them with four names: Pretense, Sincerity, Accuracy, and Authenticity. Most people use the first two, and don’t even know about the existence of the last two. But those last two, accuracy and authenticity, are our goals: those are where we want to be.

Pretense is lying, evading, and withholding information.

Sincerity is honest, untested opinion masquerading as reality.

Accuracy separates observable facts from explanations of those facts (interpretations and opinions), and then compares the different possible explanations to find value.

Authenticity reveals previously hidden value at the intersection of someone else’s view and your own (not compromise: contribution).

Most people would want to think that they use accuracy, but in reality, most people are using sincerity at best. Some people even think that authenticity is either impossible or undesirable.

I can’t go super in-depth into these kinds of conversations in this article (’tis long enough), but if you want to learn more, just hang around… I’ll be doing a series of posts digging in deeper and elucidating the art and science of effective communication.

What I do want to focus on in this post, though, is a contrast between sincerity and authenticity.

While sincerity does its absolute best to present its best ideas and help to a community, it does not work with other people to find out where its purposes and ideas intersect with theirs. If you do this, seeking to find common ground and building off of that, new ideas arise that are better than what either of you can come up with on your own. Trust me on that. Haha. It does not require compromise — it does not require giving up anything: it just requires you to think outside yourself.

If you can realize that other people have a different perspective than you, value that other perspective, and seek to find out how you can benefit them and yourself at once in the same act, then you have gained a level of maturity rarely achieved by anyone in this world.

I have seen this kind of maturity in my friends. I have seen people working together, seeking to learn, and contributing to work in synergy, and it inspires me. It is a powerful blessing. That is why I am talking about this, to help us improve, and move on to the next level. I know that you can learn from this, and benefit from it.

I don’t believe any of us have reached the full potential that God has for us in this area. We can do better, and I want to encourage you to put in that extra effort to excel even more. I would like to impart to you some of the huge blessings that God has taught me.

I believe you can take it and use it to great advantage.

P.S. A quick tip before I sign off: the most valuable form of a sentence is a Question. Handled skilfully, it can discharge the duties normally assigned to the other kinds of sentences with greater effectiveness than they could ever aspire to. So ask questions! You can practice in the comments section below. ;)

P.P.S. This post was originally posted (with some slight differences) on the Holy Worlds Christian Fantasy Forum. I honestly believe that community is one of the best in the world. So check it out. :)

Holy Worlds Christmas Contest!

Hey everyone!

I got great news for you all: Holy Worlds is having a writing contest for Christmas! Here is the announcement:

Greetings and Excited Felicitations,

I am pleased and proud to announce that Holy Worlds will be having a Christmas Contest, with the prize being a free book from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

They have kindly given us five copies of The Skin Map to give away to you all. This is Stephen Lawhead’s latest book, and highly recommended by me and the others who have read it. You can read my review of it here, and our very own Robert Treskillard’s review series of it over here.

The contest will have five categories, one for each book. You will have to pick your category, because you can only enter once. Here are the five categories:

  1. A short story consisting of exactly 100 words. No more, no less. This is known as a Drabble, and you can read more about them over here.
  2. A poem consisting of not more than 1500 words.
  3. A short story consisting of 1000-2000 words.
  4. A story hook, consisting of no more than the first 2560 characters of a story.
  5. A description of a fantasy creature consisting of not more than 1000 words. You can choose out of the following creatures to describe:

We have judges right out of our very own Honor Roll Members and Forum Team, ready to judge these categories, so make sure you do a good job on those entries!

Submissions should be submitted by email as attachments (in .doc, .odt, or .rtf format) tocontests@holyworlds.org, or by private message as attachments (in one of the same formats as above) to me, Sir Emeth Mimetes, on the Holy Worlds Fantasy Forum. If you submit it via email, make sure you mention your username on the forum, so we know who you are.

This is open to members of the forum only, so if you aren’t a member yet, register now!

The deadline is Christmas day (December 25th), so you better get moving with those writing utensils.

Make sure that your entry is clean, Christian, and fantasy based, or we will disqualify it. The judges reserve the right to disqualify any entry for any reason (we won’t be mean about it though, haha). We want to be able to publish the winners (and maybe even Runners Up) all over the place, so we don’t want stuff that we wouldn’t want our little siblings to read.

Speaking of which, if you are worried about copyright, you retain all rights and ownership of your entries, just we get permission to post the entries for promotion purposes and whatnot.

And it all free! We will even pay the shipping costs to get the prizes to y’all!

So here is what you need to do:

  1. Get excited! Well, you probably already are, so check that one off.
  2. Register for the forums. Of course.
  3. Pick your category.
  4. Start writing!
  5. Tell everybody about it!

Yes, even though it might mean more competition, we want as many people as possible to participate. The main point of this contest is to get more people on the forums and to encourage you guys by giving you something to participate in.

If you have any questions at all, email them to contests@holyworlds.org, or to me at jay.lauser@sir-emeth.com, or private message a Marcher Lord on the forums.

The lines are open, get started! Have fun, and I can’t wait to see what you all come up with.

With joy and peace in Christ on behalf of the Holy Worlds Forum Team,
Jay Lauser aka Sir Emeth Mimetes

A Party and a Very Special Announcement!

Hey there everyone!

* Is very excited *

A year ago, on September 20th of 2009, I started a forum on a whim. I did it mainly because I was lazy and wanted one centralized location on which to discuss my stories and world with my few fantasy friends. So I guess it was sort of ego-centric too (except I wanted to hear about their stories too, but whatever).

I invented a name more or less off the top of my head, threw together a forum, grabbed a theme off the internet, cobbled together some neat sounding names, and let my friends know. There were maybe 6 or so of us, but we liked it.

More than I expected. They loved it, and started telling everyone about it. I thought that was cool, so I told more of my friends about it too, posting on the different forums I am a part of, and etcetera.

And so people started to flood in. And they all loved it!

That was a shock to me. I mean, managing forums and communities is work, and I was kind of busy (I did, after all, start it because I was lazy and trying to save time, never mind about that…). But it was also kind of cool.

I mean, really cool.

There were these brilliant people all working together and talking and making friends and posting awesome stuff and in general being a model community. Very awesome. I loved my people (I still do, too). So I started improving the forums, adding mods and hacks and bbcodes and a logo and a website and a blog and a domain name and whatnot. All the stuff a real community ought to have. It was fun. :)

Well, it has been a year, and it is well over a hundred members strong, and I have a core team of dedicated Moderators and Marcher Lords and Honor Roll Members and Editors and etceteras. I also have an inner circle of lovely people who have joined together with me to take Holy Worlds to its extreme limits for the glory of God.

We have great plans.

And so that is why we are all very excited about October 21st. Why?

Because that is a year, a month, and a day since the founding. And we are going to celebrate by having a massive party on the forums. And you are invited. :D

We want to break the record for the most number of users online at once (it is 30 right now, so this is going to be fun). We are going to invade the chat room (yep, we got one of those too in there). We are going to have contests and surprises and presents for everyone.

And…

We are going to officially open the Holy Worlds Sci-Fi Forum!

Yes, we are expanding to include a sci-fi forum just for all you space-heads out there (well, me too, ’cause I like sci-fi too).

So if you are a member of HW, make sure you come at or around noon (EST) on the 21st of this month to www.holyworlds.org. And see if you can bring a friend! We will have admins standing by to activate new accounts, so if you got a friend who loves Christian fantasy or sci-fi, tell them to come and register. We would love to have them! This is a great time to tell people about us.

See you all then!

A New Look for Holy Worlds!

We are very excited over at Holy Worlds, my site dedicated to Christian fantasy writing. We just went over 100 members on the forum! This is a big milestone for us, and in honor of the occasion, I put into place a few special changes.

The homepage, the blog, and even the forum header all got new looks!

But even cooler than that, we have our very first promo video up on the homepage, and on youtube! Check it out below:

Let me know what you think of the video and the new looks everywhere in the comments!

World Geography Fractalling

Greetings,

If you aren’t already familiar with the term Fractalling, shame on you, and go read my introductory post on it. :D

This article is to show you how to fractal out a world’s geography. A daunting, but well worthwhile task.

First off, what is necessary in a world’s geography? How complex does it need to be? Well, if you take one look at Earth’s geography, you immediately see that it will be next to impossible to replicate that level of detail in any world you concoct. Thankfully you don’t need to.

But many fantasy authors make ridiculously small worlds devoid of global detail. They might be good at plotting a nation’s geography, but they try to take the same fractalling methodology from their nation development and apply it to global geographical development, and it breaks down very rapidly.

So here is how you do it right, to get the most amount of detail possible (without relying on random map generators: we want design and creativity here) with the least amount of effort.

First off we need some big shapes. Really big. What are these big shapes for? They are for the general layout of the continents. Very basic. Stick to triangles, or at the most squares. Huge ones, each covering about half of your globe. The pattern for Earth’s is two triangles, points down, for reference. Because of this simple format for Earth, it is pretty easy to change it up. On one world we did a diamond, and then a line next to it.

Then you go break those up. First skew, and then shatter them into a couple pieces each. Keep long straight lines at this point. Now is also when you decide about how many continents you are going to have. Stick in the 4-10 range, as beyond those points makes them either too small or too simple. You don’t need one shape for each continent yet though.

Now drop the shapes: we are going into a new mode. Lines!

This is a fun type of shape fractalling. Based only very loosely on your earlier shapes, draw a bunch of lines showing the essence of the land and its directions. This part is more vector based, rather than mass based, if that help you any or makes any sense. They can cross, curve (but not squiggle yet), intersect, or run off in weird directions. Be imaginative.

Now merge the two sets with squiggly shapes outlining each of your continents. Base them off of both of the previous stages. Remember at this point, and keep it in mind for the rest of the development, that the top of your square map is stretched out because you aren’t drawing this on a globe. Unfortunately. Just take it into consideration. :)

Now you can break those continents up into various islands (especially the ones that are fragmented like the Pacific Isles and Oceania), think Europe and the coasts of the Asian continent. Get the rough drafts first, of course, and then move on to the next step.

In this one, zoom in to one continent, shaping and molding it. Pay close attention to the way that it was made (glacial, volcanic, etc.) because this effects the coastline and the shapes of the mountains. Get an idea of the mountain ranges, sketching them into the land mass with lines like you did before with the continents. Do this with each continent.

Now zoom back and look artistically at how the whole thing balances and looks together. Tweak the orientation of them to each other. Stretch, squish, grow, splatter, simplify, etc.

So now you have a really good base to build off of. You can now take this and start your history, and add on as that dictates. Cities, etc. Go have fun!

The 3Literati Blog is Up!

Greetings,

Us three Literati (I, Juliet, and Patrick) have been discussing setting up a blog for a long time now to discuss various things on. Several people have asked for a place on the internet that talks about essence outside of the Holy Worlds forums, and so we wanted to include that. Well, I am happy to announce that we have it up and going, with three posts on it already!

http://3literati.wordpress.com/

We like the set up a lot, and we will enjoy posting lexicological musings as well as essence tutorials and examples. So head over there and check it out! Comment on what is there, and subscribe. :)

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