You want communicate better? Let me tell you the story of the Judge of Babylon.
In the legendary city of Babylon, great among the great ones of antiquity, there was a madman who stood at the intersection of two busy streets every morning, near the bazaar. He was called “The Judge of Babylon” and he claimed to have the power to see people’s souls.
Every morning he would stand there and repeat his routine: he would point his finger up at anyone who passed by and shout his sentence.
- Change your job!
- Go back to your wife!
- Sell your camels!
- Don’t punish your children!
- Buy a new palace!
The people had fun with the Judge of Babylon and gave him some coins. Sometimes, by coincidence, the person receiving the sentence found the advice useful. “How did the Judge know that I have this problem with my wife?!” and then they thought he was a wise stranger. But these cases were the least. For the most part, the judge’s sentences fell on deaf ears, like seeds on rock.
In the modern world, many people are like the Judge of Babylon: they yell at you every day that you do or undo, that you buy, that you go or that you come. But… What impact do they really have? What impact do you have when you do it?
Communicate better? let’s talk bubbles
Although we all know the mathematical model of communication (Sender to Message to Receiver), the scheme is counterproductive in many cases, since it seems to indicate that communication consists mainly of sending messages; say things or convey information. And so we spend time saying PLUS stuff with PLUS volume, PLUS repetition and PLUS impact.
It is true that you have to design a good message, but it is also true that there is something more important that many seem to forget: that the center of communication is not the message, but the RELATIONSHIP or the LINK that exists between people.
We start from the basic unit: the person. All the people you know and will meet have a series of concentric dimensions: their personal, family, social, professional dimension, etc. Let’s simplify this by saying that all of us live in a “bubble” that is made up of our dimensions.
For communication to exist, at least two people are required.
So far, we’re doing well. Now: for words and feelings to travel and matter, they need a substance to sustain them. This substance is the bubble. Words only travel in bubbles:
It doesn’t matter how loud this person speaks. It doesn’t matter if he is a great speaker; if he talks pretty or ugly. Separated bubbles do not carry words: there is a void that separates them. What can we do?
Now it is evident: when the dimensions of people intertwine, there is a common space in which words and feelings can be shared and have weight.
The way in which we create these common spaces largely determines our ability to communicate, converse, dialogue, listen and solve problems.
To communicate: match the bubbles
Maybe you know Merida, the heroine of the movie Brave from Disney/Pixar. If you haven’t seen it already, it’s excellent. If you’ve seen it before, you’ll remember that in the movie, Princess Merida and her mother, the queen, can’t have a sensible conversation: they fight all the time. The queen wants her daughter to marry a prince, behave a certain way, and accept her fate. The princess wants to be free and ride her horse with her bow and arrow. Who is right?
The film sensationally resolves this question, making us notice that the question does not matterbecause the problem is not the problem: the problem is the relationship.
In the movie, Merida casts a spell that turns her mother into a bear. The only way to reverse the spell? The sorceress knows: you have to restore the link.
When Mérida restores the bond (symbolized in a tapestry that she mends seconds before losing her mother), mother and daughter learn to integrate their dimensions, their “bubbles” and the problem ceases to be a problem. As in Juliet’s relationship with her daughter, what was needed were not more arguments, but repair link.
This formula works and is extraordinarily powerful! It works between husband and wife, between parents and children, between bosses and employees, between colleagues; between suppliers and customers. That is to say: it works between human beings. To talk, you must first connect. To connect, you have to intertwine the bubbles.
- If your daughter doesn’t listen to you, stop arguing and move the bubbles closer.
- If your wife doesn’t listen to you, stop arguing and bring the bubbles closer.
- If your client does not buy, stop arguing and bring the bubbles closer.
- If that problem is not solved, stop arguing and move the bubbles closer.
Since we all live in our respective bubbles, all the people we meet and the way we relate to them is manifested in the way our bubbles intertwine:
Sometimes the bubbles are so far apart that communication is impossible. This is what happens when two estranged spouses say “live as strangers.” It is an understandable feeling: their bubbles are separated and, before solving any other problem (children’s education, vacations or credit card), they must invest their energy in uniting their bubbles to create spaces for communication.
How do the bubbles come together?
- Bubbles come together, first, with time. Spending time with another person activates mirror neurons that facilitate empathy and make it part of our own dimensions. That’s why friendships that are not seen are eventually lost. Not for lack of affection, but for lack of communication.
- The bubbles are joined with common elements: hobbies, stories, tastes or experiences. Searching for matches is an effective way to facilitate the conversation: “do you like this? me too!” And the bubbles get a little closer.
- The bubbles come together with details of care, service and kindness. When we let our guard down and perceive a person as friendly – non-threatening – and nice, then we allow them into our dimensions.
- Bubbles come together with visual, physical and experiential contact. When we touch, hug or physically connect with other people; when we share glances or when we do things together—especially if they’re fun or exciting, like a sport, a game, or a good play—our bubbles get closer and closer.
- Bubbles come together when we trust. Generating reasons for credibility; that is, technical authority, moral authority, honesty, exemplarity and service.
Who are the great speakers, salespeople, and leaders? Not the ones who shout the most, argue the most, or have the best ideas. They are the ones who know how to connect. That is why communication is the most valuable transportable skill you can develop, with an impact on all areas of your life. Do you want to try? I promise you: it’s worth it.
Francisco Garcia Pimentel Dircom at Universidad Panamericana Aguascalientes. Oratory, strategic communication, storytelling. Creator of @Dibujomentarios. Partner at DiezLetras Communication. Author of the saga of The French Delegate and some other titles, such as Todos Hablan, Few Connect and Like a Fish in the Water. Lawyer and Doctorate in Communication. He follows his podcast “Todos Hablan, Few Connect” on Spotify and gets his books on Amazon.