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Friday, January 29, 2010

Outliers

Sarita's Word

In Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, he discusses in one chapter the difference that ethnic backgrounds make in plane crashes. He contrasts cultures that allow relatively free communication between authority and subordinates versus cultures with a strong sense of hierarchy. Pilots avoid crashes when conversation flows freely between the pilot and all the people hired to help.

Gladwell offers several examples. Teams that engaged in little communication wound up crashing. But a pilot who faced a disastrous landing as a result of multiple problems brought his plane in safely. How? And why? Because he communicated with other pilots, air traffic controllers and passengers, "not just in the sense of issuing commands but also in the sense of encouraging and cajoling and calming and negotiating and sharing information in the clearest and most transparent manner possible."

Gladwell concludes that cultures that encourage free communication avoid crashes more effectively.

I think this training in communication could be helpful in education as well.

How do we train our children to talk through issues, problems and solutions? By modeling such behavior as we talk through what we are thinking, how we tackle problems, why we ask them to do what we do, and so forth.

For example, when you tell your children, "No, I don't want you to do that," always explain why.

Demonstrate how you reached your decision.

Or, as problems arise, talk through how to solve them. For example, tell your children, "We'd like to go camping. We need to collect the gear, pack, and gather the food. You can help by doing x. Check back with me when you have finished and let's continue to think through what to do next."

When you talk through how you think about different problems and tasks, you enable them to succeed in those same roles. This kind of communication also enables your children to consider new options, to think through counter perspectives, and, ultimately, to offer rebuttals. And yes, it will free them, eventually, to "push back" on ideas you haven't necessarily thought through very well.

Always comfortable and pleasant? No. But very valuable life skills, ultimately, don't you think? As an employer, I am thankful for employees who help me think rightly. I'm grateful for employees with critical thinking skills. I welcome deep thinking and creative alternatives.

And I wonder. Does homeschooling more effectively allow free communication than a traditional school? It certainly offers a better opportunity. You've got a better student-teacher ratio!

As parents, we have a prime opportunity to discuss the "why" of what we do.

May our children learn effective, clear communication from us.

Blessings,
Sarita

P.S. My husband, John, just returned from a few days in Kenya. I can't wait to tell you about his experience with deaf believers there! Look for stories from his trip in the next Beam.

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