Old movies – you either love them or you hate them. I fall on the side of love. I am a HUGE fan of old movies. My absolutely favorite movie of all time is Singin’ In the Rain, but I am sure there will be more on that later. But old movies: I’m a fan, and I love discovering ones that I haven’t seen yet. Only recently have I dove into a few James Stewart films. This Christmas was the first time I had watched It’s a Wonderful Life all the way through. Even though it is a classic, I am not sure if it will make the annual Christmas watching yet or not. Well, just last week my husband and I picked up another James Stewart film Harvey from the library and watched it. If you don’t know the plot of Harvey, it is about “ Elwood P. Dowd, a mild-mannered, pleasant man, who just happens (he says) to have an invisible friend resembling a 6-foot rabbit.” (imdb.com) I must say Harvey frustrated me! Every which way you turn there was some sort of miscommunication going on. Now, I know to have a good story whether it is in a book or in a movie or any form it must have a conflict. But it does frustrate me when the conflict is caused by miscommunication easily avoided. As I was watching it, I was struck with 4 communication lessons which I feel compelled to now share with you. (I will warn you, this post may contain a few spoiler alerts so read the rest at your own risk.) So here are the 4 lessons I learned (and I think you could too) from a 6′ 3 1/2″ Pooka:
- LISTEN to the whole story. Listening is key to any commutative interaction. Most of the mishap in Harvey would not have occurred if Dr. Sanderson would have listened to Veta Louise’s whole story. She was trying to explain the situation but the Doctor did not pay enough attention to what she was saying. Which leads us into the second lesson.
- DO NOT assume. Dr. Sanderson assumed he knew Veta Louise’s story which led him to commit her to the mental hospital instead of Elwood P. Dowd. Once Dr. Sanderson jumped to his assumption, he molded his other interactions to fit his assumption.
- EXPLAIN clearly. Now, not all the miscommunication can be blamed on Dr. Sanderson. Veta Louise did not always do a good job in clearly explaining herself. When explaining the situation to Dr. Sanderson, she did not use full sentences and did not fully develop each idea for him.
- ASK questions. At the beginning of the conversation, Dr. Sanderson did ask Veta Louise several questions to try to get a better understanding. But his mistake was then to jump to an assumption after not listening very well. Questions can help clarify information, and they show that you are trying to listen.
If the characters in Harvey would have followed these 4 simple principles, there would not have been the dilemma the characters found themselves in. Dr. Sanderson wouldn’t have misunderstood Veta Louise and consequently not committed her to the mental hospital instead of her brother Elwood P. Dowd. But then Harvey would be a pretty boring movie, now wouldn’t it?
Your turn: What story taught you a communication lesson or two? What were those lessons?