Saturday, January 11, 2014

Searching for Harmony

In the spread of communication technology, Korea is at the cutting edge, being a leader in the use of smart phones and high speed wireless internet use. It is, however, in a list of developed countries, close to the bottom in communication skills between individuals.  Writing in the Kyeongyang magazine, a college professor, in the field of communication and mass media, discusses this latest revelation concerning how poorly many of us communicate, and the role of trust in achieving better communication skills.

One of the biggest research institutes has reported that Korea ranks as one of the lowest in the trust needed for good communication. Though a leader in the world with equipment for communication, Korea, ironically, is at the bottom when it comes to having the necessary skills to communicate with others. If we want to remedy the situation, the professor says we must find the reason for our lack of communication skills, and how trust is involved in any successful communication.

He recounts what an older academic said at a  meeting of scholars: With a lack of trust, there will be less foresight, a high probability of uncertainty, increasing  anxiety and insecurity. In the end, this will lead to a lack of judgement and communication, which will lead to pushing one's ideas blindly. This is the current situation in the South in relating to the North,  according to the professor.

We all remember vividly the past: the war, the killed and injured, the abuse and condemnations--all factors continuing to build distrust. We have seen better times in our relationship with the North, but at present we have returned to the beginning of the relationship. Not only is there a breakdown of communication with the North but this situation also affects, he says, the relationships we have with one another, in the government and its opposition, in management and labor; also affecting class divisions within society, the intensification of local prejudices, and the widening of the generation gap-- all resulting from the collapse of effective communication.

In 2012 we began to see a desire for better communication, and the topic was being discussed more often, but at present, we have experienced only failure--from the top down, the professor says. Calling the opposition party, for instance, followers of the North is no help in building trust. He refers to advice from Confucius: A leader needs to gain the trust of the people before exercising power;  without this trust the populace will think they are being tormented; when those governing are not in the right, even when they shout their commands, they will not  be followed. 
The article ends with suggestions to improve communication skills.  He lists three factors cited by Aristotle: ethos--the virtue and character of the one speaking; pathos--understanding the situation and the emotional state of those listening; logos-- the words and the way we convey our message. This advice, the professor says, is true for all of us but especially for those in positions of leadership. 
Jurgen Habermas, in his The Theory of Communicative Action, also presents what he considers necessary for rational communication by citing three factors: the subjective, the objective and the social areas of life. In all three areas, he stresses the importance of being completely honest. When the mass media, for instance, is not reporting what people need to know, they are not being honest, they are not following the ethical principles of their profession. When they have their eyes set on the power of government, the owners of big business, and potential advertisers, communication with their readers becomes impossible, and a total breakdown of communication usually results.

In Korea, he believes it has come to a point where our communication is limited to small intimate groups, leading to divisions within all sectors of society. Though the means of communication have increased, the ability to communicate has decreased. Removing this chasm requires building trust and developing harmony between those who are in contending positions. This can be achieved if everyone involved makes a sincere effort to understand the other and work for harmony in society, each sharing their desire to reach a mutually agreeable conclusion.

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