The Importance of Meta-communication in Time of Crisis

As a human being, I have enough reflection and experiences to share my perspective on this very important matter, and I can add a little bit of my experience, as someone who has been helping people to overcome, enhance, and excel in their communication, to this reflection to explain some technical processes.

From words, tone of voice, and hand gestures to the color of the tie and beyond, communication is a universal vivid science and practice that should be understood and enhanced. This journey has to start from parenting to daily continuous development. Parents should teach their kids some basic explanations of human interaction. If parents can also cover both intrapersonal and interpersonal communication and then reach dialogic communication, they would make a beneficial long-sighted investment in their families. Families should receive that knowledge through different forms of education (formal, non-formal, and informal) through media, NGOs, and some other programs. Schools later must facilitate that knowledge to learners to help them understand at least the needed interactions in the process of learning and teaching.

As a facilitator, I can elaborate more on how to technically do this, but I prefer to focus on why managers and leaders must pay careful attention to how they communicate in times of crisis, and I should leave that for future opinion articles.

If we look at the process of what can be explained as ‘Human Encoding’ or the way we transmit information, we will find that our messages are like seeds that need enough vigilant care to get to growth safely and systematically. In that encoding, one must understand the relative context to a speaking occasion, do enough research, understand the target audience, and use verbal and non-verbal encoders mindfully. For example, mindfulness in encoding can start from words and expressions to hand gestures and beyond. Of course, leaders or managers must receive enough training before they start their actual work which automatically includes communication as a daily practice, but they can also overcome their challenges while working through continuous professional development and by providing a suitable environment for intrapreneurship as a better practice of their administration and leadership models.

If we would like to start shedding light on a larger aspect of communication, we can resort to a term called “Meta-communication” to see how encoding goes beyond known structures (word use, tone of voice, and body language) to a seating position, uniform, and even a color of a tie put with a suit of a spokesperson! That color would drive people mad if it is a light one, which may symbolize celebration, during an official address during times of crisis. If successful speakers then want to be smart communicators, they should study color psychology and color symbolism in accordance with their target audience before they appear, let alone speaking!

Instead of getting deeper into examples and cases, which can be good practice for future enhancement, I prefer to share some tips on how to excel in communication in times of crisis. First, try to understand Human Nature from many sources (religion, science, culture, and so on) because it is “the name of the game” in human interaction. Basic knowledge in psychology is going to help enjoy this endless journey. I recommend a book called ‘50 Psychology Classics’ for the beginning of this human discovery. Now, an online course or interactive training may create more motivation (both intrinsic and extrinsic) for this continuous learning, but adding interactive workshops to this learning is going to help you experiment in an authentic environment. Second, culture is an important part of this journey of learning. For that, acquiring, learning, and enhancing ‘Intercultural Communication’ is needed in today’s world. I remember, as a former student of American Culture Studies, I enjoyed this subject and it made me reflect on some of my previous experiences which I had had before I studied that subject back in 2014. One of those experiences was my participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in the US. Later, that competency has been helping me since then ‘to seek first to understand before I seek to be understood’ as Steven R. Covey shows as a habit in his book of The Seven Habits. My latest international experiences in Morocco, France, Germany, Italy, and the Vatican needed this communication competency from shopping to leading workshops and speaking in public.

Finally, this sharing does claim to provide a final answer to why or how we should enhance our communication for times of crisis, but it is a sharing from human to human in order to live this journey of reflection together.

Works Cited

Butler-Bowdon, T. (2017). 50 psychology classics: Your shortcut to the most important ideas on the mind, personality, and human nature. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

The seven habits of highly effective people. (1996). . Covey Leadership Center.

Yahya Echattoui

is a teacher of English at Ibn Batouta Public High School, Mediouna, Casablanca. He is also a soft skills facilitator with AEFSTM at FST, faculty of Science and Technology, Mohamadia. Yahya is also a public speaking coach, trainer and judge, business pitching coach, debate trainer and jury member (WSDC and LD formats), trainer of AGILE LEADERSHIP, and an IVLP alumnus.
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