Education for a Better Life and Better World

by John S. James

We need a world where people are treated better, a world with more friendship and joy and less greed and violence. How do we get from here to there?

One way is to build a model for how people can improve their own situation right now and also contribute to a better world -- through exactly the same actions. That's what www.communicationpractices.org is about. We are developing simple, low-stress "practices" that you can use during ordinary activities in everyday life, to improve certain communication, interaction, and relationship skills. You can pick and choose from these educational practices to set up your own personal training program in this critically important area.

It's free because it's non-commercial. And it's open-ended. Anyone can create or promote new communication practices, and people "vote with their feet" on which ones they want to use. There's no central authority.

Examples (summaries -- see descriptions elsewhere on this site)

* Respect, Appreciate, Agree: Even with an opponent, you can usually find something about them that you honestly like, respect, or agree with -- and find a graceful way to acknowledge it to them. It's a way to improve all kinds of relationships, business and personal. We miss these opportunities because we often demonize opponents -- and even potential friends.

* Leading and Following: You can practice some kinds of leadership while just walking in a crowded sidewalk, mall, party, or other gathering. People avoid collisions by negotiating certain short-term relationships -- sometimes leader/follower, but not always. Just because the outcome does *not* matter (usually there's no status issue, and who cares if you get where you're going a few seconds earlier or later) you can use otherwise-inconsequential time to develop relationship skills you might not have learned elsewhere in life, where you had to focus on material consequences instead of the relationship process.

* Timing of Initiative: Sometimes -- such as when you call a receptionist at an organization you have not dealt with before -- you need to take the initiative at first to define the situation, but then let the other party or parties take the initiative to do their job their way. This dynamic occurs throughout business and personal life. Some people do it well already and do not need this practice. Others have never learned this skill and suffer in business and personal relationships as a result. But they can learn it easily, often within days, once they know how.

* Picking Up Styles: Often you can learn to understand people better by imitating certain rhythms of how they move -- especially rhythms that seem to be particularly important to them.

Background

Notice that all these practices (1) do not require money or other material resources, because they work only through human communication, interaction, and relationships, and (2) are completely integrated with everyday life (so they are easy and low-stress, do not require free time, and can be used for hours at a time if one wants to learn skills quickly). These are the defining characteristics of communication practices.

We also recommend that you conduct your training program in slack time, such as while doing errands, or traveling from place to place -- not during critical times in important relationships, when you should usually stay with the situation itself and avoid devices of all kinds. The skills you have learned will be with you automatically, because they will be with you always.

Here is a kind of education open to all social classes alike, because it does not require money, formal education, permission, or even spare time. It's built entirely on everyday experience and human interaction, which we all share. Anyone can start now, without waiting for others to get on board, without waiting for funding or institutional process. And yet we can work together as a community to further develop and improve this training.

Many educators believe that the most effective kind of teaching is assisted performance -- the teacher helps the student accomplish a task within the student's "zone of proximal development" -- meaning something the student can do with assistance, but could not have done alone. Here the practices themselves provide the assistance. Therefore this education can be integrated with everyday life, where a teacher is usually not present -- removing financial and organizational constraints, allowing the student complete control, and allowing anyone to train as much or as little as they want. So you work alone and yet always with people; and the educational framework (the different practices in general use) can be developed as a worldwide community project, benefiting from the knowledge and talents of many individuals and cultures.

John S. James, jj@communicationpractices.org
http://www.communicationpractices.org

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