Time zones: the importance of communication

I suppose the lesson to be learned from diplomacy conferences like HACIA Democracy would be the importance of communication, the value of leadership, or even how to compromise. And although these obvious life lessons came to my attention during the conference itself, there was much more to be learned from the experience as a whole, whether it be from the air travel or the hotel or interactions with people. Through the many frustrating moments trying to pass motions or overcome the coalitions created during committee meetings, the most valuable lesson for me, ironically, came from knowing the time.

After the first grueling day of air travel and checking in for about four hours, it was well established that Mexico was three hours behind São Paulo. Though feeling famished, we all knew that dinner was not until 7:00 PM. Not a hard task: meet in the lobby at 7:00 PM, and go, as a group, to one of many restaurants in the hotel for a hot meal. Well, I was proven wrong about it not being a hard task. Hunger induced fatigue and a bit of crankiness in me, and in an attempt to appease my moody state, I devoured the potato chips from my room’s mini-bar. As soon as the clock on the dresser hit 6:50, I was out of there. I walked briskly, maybe even pushed a few hotel guests out of the way (seriously, pick a side of the pathway to walk on!), and made my way to the lobby. Except, I was the only one there, and we couldn’t eat until everyone was there.

I was five, maybe ten minutes early. No big deal. Soon, my Graded peers came strolling in, about 15 minutes late, but I expected this. What I didn’t expect was for six people to show up an hour late. The issue here wasn’t a disregard for others, not even normal lateness. It was that nobody seemed to know what time it was. According to the big clock behind the check-in desk, it was 8:04, but Google—which is always right—said 7:04. For reliable information, half of us went by the hotel time, while the other half resorted to our friend, the Internet. We couldn’t agree at all. If you really must know, the time was, in fact, 8:04 PM.

Now, this is what I view as a real-world application of the importance of communication. Yes, exercises you do in class and diplomacy-type activities stimulate proper communication between peers; however, the same sense of urgency isn’t present. It’s almost like a slap in the face when someone argues over what time it is and tries to convince the other person of his or her differing ideas. Instead of trying to seek out the actual time, evidence was being piled up on both sides to argue which time was correct. There was no actual sense of collaboration or understanding; everyone was talking, but we weren’t listening to each other.

We routinely make decisions for ourselves; we are taught to be leaders and take action. It becomes easy to think that these decisions, which are unilateral, are the best decisions. Yet because of this our communication muscles have weakened. In order to make better decisions, we need to communicate, to empower everyone to express their perspectives, while maintaining the interests and needs of others.

For those without formal power, communication becomes a major obstacle when those who are superior want to enhance the community. Communication among those on the same playing field, or even with diverse levels of power, only occurs when all punitive measures have been eradicated and all have the willpower for the group to succeed and not the individual. This is why transparency goes so far in communication, so that there can be a clear set of expectations and reality.

The fundamental commitment to a solution that works for all within any context is what is often absent in communication. Knowing the time is just one example of establishing a clear cut set of measurements that is key to understanding the group dynamic. Through this experience at HACIA in Mexico, I understood that clear expectations among the group as a whole will allow the group to know how to interact, and how it will function as a unit, instead of a disparate group of individuals.

Source: psychologytoday.com