A Lesson on Confabulation

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

– Peter F. Drucker


When you read an article that starts with a quote, that’s when you know that things are heading for a serious, didactic turn.


I took an introductory communication course last year (not business communication, simply plain intro to communication), and the lessons I learnt from that course stuck with me to an incredibly strong extent. I wasn’t surprised by this fact; my Professor was superb at making us learn the big picture concepts well so that we walked away with a life understanding of what communication entails instead of a theoretical understanding that went away after we handed in our final. I will always remember her for her extraordinary endeavors. I am surprised, however, that introductory communication isn’t a GE requirement at most colleges (at least in California); it most definitely should be.


Communication is not about you. It is about the entire situation; it is based on a culmination of every moment of your life and the receivers’ lives. It is bigger than you. You have to communicate - and this includes listening - with your whole being. Your mind and your eyes should both listen, and your body language should reflect that concentration and attention.


The specific language you use to convey your message is way more powerful than we’d ever like to admit. However, once we realize the different ways in which to use words, the easier it will be to become a better communicator. Kindness is a language which everyone can understand; non-creepy smiles of a good nature also fall in this category, too.


When communicating critically, we want to be skeptics because a skeptic inquires thoughtfully and rationally to each situation, without finding fault but also without blind acceptance. This default attitude of skepticism refers to the process of listening to claims, evaluating evidence, and reasoning supporting those claims and drawing conclusions based on probabilities. Being a skeptic does NOT mean that one doubts everything one deals with. It simply means investigating into elements until we’re satisfied with their existence. We should question everything - and this has been the status quo at Berkeley from the very start.


Being skeptical as a student means one makes every attempt to:

  • Research, investigate and find out the deeper, more nuanced truths

  • Locate proof and evidence to genuinely accept situations

  • Constantly ask for clarification of meanings to fill in potential knowledge gaps

  • Never take anything at face value, whether that be an emotional reaction or semantics.


We should not accept everything at face value. We must operate with a level of professional skepticism in every aspect of our lives, and, in my humble opinion, UC Berkeley does a good job of that already. I fell in love with Cal for that very reason: it’s unbridled sense of justice, originality, uniqueness, and unapologetic character reflective of its student body.


Not all conflict is bad. Actually, conflict can be the reason for growth. However, there are ways to manage conflict that are destructive and others that are constructive. Find out what style others are using and see how you can adapt your style to get out of the conflict with growth instead of tearing each other down.


We all have times where we are the ones with power and other times when we are without power. It’s important to recognize when you have power so you know how and when you both help and hurt others. Power is, after all, a push-and-pull that we’re constantly negotiating with others. Give when you can, take when necessary. Don’t take power for granted; nothing ever is.


Don’t let the heat of a situation take away the coolness of your character. You’re cool. Keep it that way and stay calm. Leave the room; it’s a sign of strength, not weakness. Fighting fire with fire is one of those false claims that social media has sadly perpetuated to manipulate society’s fickle mind.


Use skepticism - a clearly defined process of listening to claims, evaluating evidence and reasoning supporting those claims, and drawing conclusions based on probabilities. It is the essence of critical listening.


For competent critical listening, one must evaluate the information we hear and absorb listening involves more than accurately understanding the messages of others. We’re not simply sponges absorbing information. Once we understand the message, we often need to evaluate it. All opinions are not created equal.


We hear a dizzying variety of claims every day. As critical listeners, we need to know the difference between prime rib and baloney, between fact and fantasy.


At the end of the day, we’re all just people trying to live the best lives we can with what we’re given.


Thank you, Professor Alexander. Your words of wisdom have grown in my mind and soul so much ever since your last class, and it’s all been a direct result of your guidance and efforts.


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn and grow.


Thank you for illustrating the epitome of a great communicator.