Conflict Counsel no 9
Communication for any Summit
On 19th March Christine Jensen Burke, an international adventurer and conqueror of Mt Everest and the 8 highest summits on the 7 continents spoke to clients and friends of Negocio Resolutions about the communication challenges of extreme mountain climbing. She addressed the physical, cultural and human dimension of communicating with groups and individuals.
My mediation and communication practice confirms some of the points that Chris made in her presentation, such as;
- When the behaviour of others on a trek to base camp was not as expected, neither collaborative nor friendly, the only person’s behaviour that Christine had the power to change was her own. When she changed her approach the behaviour of others responded creating a strong bond and camaraderie.
- That we all see things from different perspectives and different perspectives are neither wrong nor right, just different.
- So much of communication is non-verbal and when that was removed because of the clothing and equipment impediments, it was necessary to be extra careful with communication.
- Assumptions about behaviour create grave risks. At one stage Chris assumed that a person sitting in the snow was resting when in fact they were ill and needed assistance. Had the assumption not been overcome the consequences were dire.
- There is enormous value in debriefing after communications are difficult and at the end of a project to learn what worked, what did not work and what can be done better next time. This practice creates trust and bonds in expedition teams.
- Trust is a vital element to effective communication. Without trust issues remain unexplored and people do not communicate fully about their needs, concerns or upsets.
- When there is emotion communication is even more important yet equally is more difficult. Imagine the different emotions of reaching the summit of Mt Everest, being subject to a kidnapping attempt in West Papua and being on the mountain when 12 people are killed in an avalanche within a few kilometres of your camp!
- Cultural diversity is like speaking different languages even if all of the talk is in English.
- Misunderstandings are dangerous AND can be overcome if care is taken with communication particularly by checking in that understanding is complete.
- Ask Why?….. If you want to find out what is going on.
Thanks to Christine and her expedition leaders, Sumit and Lapka who joined her in those insights and to the attendees of the event who donated $265.00 to the Australian Himalaya Foundation.