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Another reflection about communication came to my mind a couple of weeks ago. On a recent visit to Madrid some friends were talking about this great TED talk they watched. (You can watch the TED talk here: link.)
The multiple point of view for better communication.
It all sounded really familiar and I realised that I had read a book on a very similar subject. The book is called “Americanah” and is written by Chimananda Adichie , a Nigerian writer based in the USA. I highly recommended it.
Chimananda defines herself as a storyteller (an avid reader who started reading around 2-3 and writing at the age of 7). As a child she almost always read books by white American writers. But she had a huge mental shift when she discovered African books written by African people just like her. Based on her readings, her perception of reality up until that point had been quite one-directional.
At some point in her life she started to explain to others the danger of a single point of view, the misunderstandings and lack of authenticity of this simple way of seeing things. At one point she realized that she had fallen in the same trap when thinking about immigration and the relationship with Mexicans back in the States. She had been hearing the same story over and over, and that repetition made it into a single story. Through different examples Adichie demonstrates that single stories create stereotypes and rob people of their dignity.
While the TED talk was quite interesting what really opened my eyes to the fact that multiple stories get you to the truth was the book.
In the book Ifemelu, the main character, travels from her home country Nigeria to America as a middle-class immigrant. Her relationship with Obinze (one of her companions through the years) helps the reader to understand the difficulties of living abroad as an immigrant (when Obinze can’t get a visa to the United States and tries to illegally stay in the UK, where he lives for a time).
What really blew my mind was the relationship between different races as explained through the blog written by the main character: “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black”
Through this blog the author reflects on authenticity, cultural differences and the distinction between an African-American and American-African. Things like what it’s like for a black Nigerian woman to be in the United States for the first time.This idea reinforces the concept that, for better communication, multiple points of view get you to the truth.
Finally, I would like to discuss the idea of how a great communicator can influence the way the message arrives to the maximum number of people.