The Signals from The Noise

The Signals from The Noise

When the bombs were dropping on London in my youth there was a great deal of noise, dust, rubble and smoke. It was difficult to hear, see or understand what was going on. Early on, we were taught to distinguish the signals from the noise – to discern what we had to do to avoid the destruction around us. “Assess who will really help you,” we were warned. Today’s world economy is rather like that, too.

There is certainly a lot of noise. Siren voices are warning and consoling us at the same time. Promises of solutions to a rough economy abound. Journalists pump up agony; brokers pump up stocks, to dump them. Can we discern which are true, which false? Can we extract The Signals from The Noise? If not, we had better learn fast. At the root of making the distinction is knowing the other person’s agenda and the conflicts of interest that abound within it. Those who don’t, make wrong decisions and lose out. What qualifies a signal?

First, the facts. “What’s in it for me?” is an oft-quoted response to a request. It sounds rather un-generous. It is a survival / greed message and it comes quite naturally. Everyone has a survival agenda and it is only partly about money and tangible gain. A common agenda TMI is presented with is “I need attention”. Sometimes it is the basic business of having someone engage with them. It can arise, for example, when a carer, possibly a child or sibling, has been looking after a sick person for a long time. When the dependent dies the person caring for them is robbed of both a purpose and the reward of being purposeful.

A sudden or major change of circumstance is an agenda changer. We often then don’t know what we want – a situation that usually leads to self-pity and sometimes childish behaviour. Observe attention-getting and be aware that these are the times when people are most vulnerable to self-harm or self-destruction – situations not always capable of solution.

Second, the priorities. Signals of despair do not need a lecture or an attempt to tidy up the subject’s life. They need a lot of affection, reassurance, love and – yes – attention. They also require a clear recovery timetable or the self-styled victim may wallow forever. This is a delicate time and you need to observe reactions and changes in mood very quickly.

Third, the integrity of purpose of the other person. Not easy to know our own integrity of purpose or motives, let alone others’. You may be dealing with an optimist or a pessimist. Both have agendas which can skew advice in the wrong direction. Even the thoroughly rational will be modifying their agenda in the hope of persuading you to adopt it. Dialogue is inevitably partly reactive. An early lesson for me was to distinguish between a message and the way of communicating it. The latter will always determine the former to some extent.

Reading other people is not easy. It requires a mixture of observation and creativity. When you have learnt it your effectiveness at communicating increases exponentially.

That is what today’s productivity is all about.

Terrific Mentors International has a Service to enable you to read other people, click here to find out more.